Competency: Vitamin D
RSV is a scary pneumonia. It hits infants, often within a couple of weeks of delivery. They look sick. They wheeze. Their chests bend in with their effort. I have spent 33 years being petrified of these kids because there isn’t much you can do for them except put them on a ventilator. And their mothers are living in sheer terror. Every child gets it by age two, but most hardly know it other than a bad cold. But we still have a couple of hundred thousand admissions to the hospital every year for newborns whose little chests are almost collapsing with their effort to breathe. “It’s just bronchiolitis from RSV”, we say, and shrug our shoulders.
Well! No longer. This article shows you can cut RSV some 85% if you take Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy. The researchers in this study took 156 neonates and measured their cord blood PROSPECTIVELY for vitamin D. (That’s as close as you can get to a randomized controlled trial.) They they waited to see who got sick. What they found was a very strong association between the D level in the cord blood and mother taking a D supplement, AND the child then getting RSV or not. The authors suggest that the recommended level of 600 IU for pregnancy women is woefully inadequate. In fact, this column has reviewed Drs Hollis and Wagner’s work from S. Carolina where they showed it takes about 4000 IU a day to have a baby born with a Vit D level in the 50 ng range. A mother’s blood level strongly correlates with the baby’s blood level. Fifty ng is what you get when you have adequate sunshine year around, and work outdoors, and don’t wear clothes. Sort of like what we did prior to 10,000 years ago.
How does D do all that? We’ve learned about D and bones until we can rote recite it. What folks don’t hear is that fundamentally Vitamin D makes your stem cells turn into mature cells and do their function properly. We humans have at least 3000 different kinds of cells, and each starts as a stem cell. To mature, we need D. That works in bones as well as white cells. Mature while cells can kill viruses. Our reviewed study from Japan last year showed that D doubled the effectiveness of a flu shot in children. Flu is another deadly virus. So, D is working by stimulating the stem cells for those lymphocytes that kill viruses. Magic!
And what did our recent national guidelines come out saying? 600 IU a day is enough! That’s enough for BONE HEALTH only. It’s not sufficient to get to 30 ng reliably and 30 ng is the threshold where we know Vit D stimulates the production of cathelicidin, your bodies natural antibiotic. To get to 30 reliably, you need 3000 IU a day. To get to 50 reliably, you need 5000 IU a day.
What I find most unique is that many researchers in D are taking 5000 IU a day. And we keep wringing our hands about how to prevent early infant mortality, particularly in Milwaukee, the city with the highest level in the country. Our newspaper is running Sunday front page featured articles about reducing early childhood deaths. And now we have a paper to show us how to reduce one of the most common infant pneumonia. Hopefully our editors and community organizers will read this paper. Or perhaps you can forward it to them.
WWW. What will work for me. It’s time to call for community action for higher D level supplementation for pregnant women. Hollis and Wagner first showed us the way. Now we have Belderbos and Heuben. Every pregnant woman I know hears it from me. Help me out here. Spread the word. Every pregnant woman you know! A pregnancy lasts 9 months. You can buy enough D for that time for $ 8 as Sam’s Club. People ask me if I’m worried about the liability in OB. I believe the weight of liability has shifted to those who knowingly don’t check and provide D for pregnant women.