Life Extension Magazine December 2009
Circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels indicative of vitamin D sufficiency: implications for establishing a new effective dietary intake recommendation for vitamin D.
It has been more than 3 decades since the first assay assessing circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] in human subjects was performed and led to the definition of “normal” nutritional vitamin D status, i.e., vitamin D sufficiency. Sampling human subjects, who appear to be free from disease, and assessing “normal” circulating 25(OH)D levels based on a Gaussian distribution of these values is now considered to be a grossly inaccurate method of identifying the normal range. Several factors contribute to the inaccuracy of this approach, including race, lifestyle habits, sunscreen usage, age, latitude, and inappropriately low dietary intake recommendations for vitamin D. The current adult recommendations for vitamin D, 200-600 IU/d, are very inadequate when one considers that a 10-15 min whole-body exposure to peak summer sun will generate and release up to 20,000 IU vitamin D-3 into the circulation. We are now able to better identify sufficient circulating 25(OH)D levels through the use of specific biomarkers that appropriately increase or decrease with changes in 25(OH)D levels; these include intact parathyroid hormone, calcium absorption, and bone mineral density. Using these functional indicators, several studies have more accurately defined vitamin D deficiency as circulating levels of 25(OH)D < or = 80 nmol or 32 microg/L. Recent studies reveal that current dietary recommendations for adults are not sufficient to maintain circulating 25(OH)D levels at or above this level, especially in pregnancy and lactation.
J Nutr. 2005 Feb;135(2):317-22
Epidemic influenza and vitamin D.
In 1981, R. Edgar Hope-Simpson proposed that a ‘seasonal stimulus’ intimately associated with solar radiation explained the remarkable seasonality of epidemic influenza. Solar radiation triggers robust seasonal vitamin D production in the skin; vitamin D deficiency is common in the winter, and activated vitamin D, 1,25(OH)2D, a steroid hormone, has profound effects on human immunity. 1,25(OH)2D acts as an immune system modulator, preventing excessive expression of inflammatory cytokines and increasing the ‘oxidative burst’ potential of macrophages. Perhaps most importantly, it dramatically stimulates the expression of potent anti-microbial peptides, which exist in neutrophils, monocytes, natural killer cells, and in epithelial cells lining the respiratory tract where they play a major role in protecting the lung from infection. Volunteers inoculated with live attenuated influenza virus are more likely to develop fever and serological evidence of an immune response in the winter. Vitamin D deficiency predisposes children to respiratory infections. Ultraviolet radiation (either from artificial sources or from sunlight) reduces the incidence of viral respiratory infections, as does cod liver oil (which contains vitamin D). An interventional study showed that vitamin D reduces the incidence of respiratory infections in children. We conclude that vitamin D, or lack of it, may be Hope-Simpson’s ‘seasonal stimulus’.
Epidemiol Infect. 2006 Dec;134(6):1129-40
On the epidemiology of influenza.
The epidemiology of influenza swarms with incongruities, incongruities exhaustively detailed by the late British epidemiologist, Edgar Hope-Simpson. He was the first to propose a parsimonious theory explaining why influenza is, as Gregg said, “seemingly unmindful of traditional infectious disease behavioral patterns.” Recent discoveries indicate vitamin D upregulates the endogenous antibiotics of innate immunity and suggest that the incongruities explored by Hope-Simpson may be secondary to the epidemiology of vitamin D deficiency. We identify - and attempt to explain - nine influenza conundrums: (1) Why is influenza both seasonal and ubiquitous and where is the virus between epidemics? (2) Why are the epidemics so explosive? (3) Why do they end so abruptly? (4) What explains the frequent coincidental timing of epidemics in countries of similar latitude? (5) Why is the serial interval obscure? (6) Why is the secondary attack rate so low? (7) Why did epidemics in previous ages spread so rapidly, despite the lack of modern transport? (8) Why does experimental inoculation of seronegative humans fail to cause illness in all the volunteers? (9) Why has influenza mortality of the aged not declined as their vaccination rates increased? We review recent discoveries about vitamin D’s effects on innate immunity, human studies attempting sick-to-well transmission, naturalistic reports of human transmission, studies of serial interval, secondary attack rates, and relevant animal studies. We hypothesize that two factors explain the nine conundrums: vitamin D’s seasonal and population effects on innate immunity, and the presence of a subpopulation of “good infectors.” If true, our revision of Edgar Hope-Simpson’s theory has profound implications for the prevention of influenza.
Virol J. 2008 Feb 25;5:29
Circulating vitamin D3 and 25-hydroxyvitamin D in humans: An important tool to define adequate nutritional vitamin D status.
Circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] is generally considered the means by which we define nutritional vitamin D status. There is much debate, however, with respect to what a healthy minimum level of circulation 25(OH)D should be. Recent data using various biomarkers such as intact parathyroid hormone (PTH), intestinal calcium absorption, and skeletal density measurements suggest this minimum level to be 80 nmol (32 ng/mL). Surprisingly, the relationship between circulating vitamin D(3) and its metabolic product-25(OH)D(3) has not been studied. We investigated this relationship in two separate populations: the first, individuals from Hawaii who received significant sun exposure; the second, subjects from a lactation study who received up to 6,400 IU vitamin D(3)/day for 6 months. Results (1) the relationship between circulating vitamin D(3) and 25(OH)D in both groups was not linear, but appeared saturable and controlled; (2) optimal nutritional vitamin D status appeared to occur when molar ratios of circulating vitamin D(3) and 25(OH)D exceeded 0.3; at this point, the V(max) of the 25-hydroxylase appeared to be achieved. This was achieved when circulating 25(OH)D exceeded 100 nmol. We hypothesize that as humans live today, the 25-hydroxylase operates well below its V(max) because of chronic substrate deficiency, namely vitamin D(3). When humans are sun (or dietary) replete, the vitamin D endocrine system will function in a fashion as do these other steroid synthetic pathways, not limited by substrate. Thus, the relationship between circulating vitamin D and 25(OH)D may represent what “normal” vitamin D status should be.
J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007 Mar;103(3-5):631-4
Use of vitamin D in clinical practice.
The recent discovery—from a meta-analysis of 18 randomized controlled trials—that supplemental cholecalciferol (vitamin D) significantly reduces all-cause mortality emphasizes the medical, ethical, and legal implications of promptly diagnosing and adequately treating vitamin D deficiency. Not only are such deficiencies common, and probably the rule, vitamin D deficiency is implicated in most of the diseases of civilization. Vitamin D’s final metabolic product is a potent, pleiotropic, repair and maintenance, seco-steroid hormone that targets more than 200 human genes in a wide variety of tissues, meaning it has as many mechanisms of action as genes it targets. One of the most important genes vitamin D up-regulates is for cathelicidin, a naturally occurring broad-spectrum antibiotic. Natural vitamin D levels, those found in humans living in a sun-rich environment, are between 40-70 ng per ml, levels obtained by few modern humans. Assessing serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25(OH)D) is the only way to make the diagnosis and to assure treatment is adequate and safe. Three treatment modalities exist for vitamin D deficiency: sunlight, artificial ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, and vitamin D3 supplementation. Treatment of vitamin D deficiency in otherwise healthy patients with 2,000-7,000 IU vitamin D per day should be sufficient to maintain year-round 25(OH)D levels between 40-70 ng per mL. In those with serious illnesses associated with vitamin D deficiency, such as cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, autism, and a host of other illnesses, doses should be sufficient to maintain year-round 25(OH)D levels between 55-70 ng per mL. Vitamin D-deficient patients with serious illness should not only be supplemented more aggressively than the well, they should have more frequent monitoring of serum 25(OH)D and serum calcium. Vitamin D should always be adjuvant treatment in patients with serious illnesses and never replace standard treatment. Theoretically, pharmacological doses of vitamin D (2,000 IU per kg per day for three days) may produce enough of the naturally occurring antibiotic cathelicidin to cure common viral respiratory infections, such as influenza and the common cold, but such a theory awaits further science.
Altern Med Rev. 2008 Mar;13(1):6-20
Vitamin D: a D-Lightful health perspective.
Sunlight provides most humans with their vitamin D requirement. Adequate vitamin D(3) by synthesis in the skin or from dietary and supplemental sources is essential for bone health throughout life. Vitamin D deficiency is defined as a 25(OH)D concentration <20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L); vitamin D sufficiency as a 25(OH)D >30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L), and insufficiency as 21-29 ng/mL. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency has been linked to a wide variety of chronic diseases including common cancers, autoimmune, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases. Healthcare professionals need to be aware of the vitamin D deficiency pandemic. Guidelines for sensible sun exposure and supplemental vitamin D of 800-1000 IU/day are needed.
Nutr Rev. 2008 Oct;66(10 Suppl 2):S182-94
Benefits and requirements of vitamin D for optimal health: a review.
Vitamin D sufficiency is required for optimal health. The conditions with strong evidence for a protective effect of vitamin D include several bone diseases, muscle weakness, more than a dozen types of internal cancers, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes mellitus. There is also weaker evidence for several other diseases and conditions. There are good reasons that vitamin D sufficiency be maintained during all stages of life, from fetal development to old age. Adequate calcium intake is also recommended. The current vitamin D requirements in the United States are based on protection against bone diseases. These guidelines are being revised upward in light of new findings, especially for soft-tissue health. The consensus of scientific understanding appears to be that vitamin D deficiency is reached for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) levels less than 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L), insufficiency in the range from 20-32 ng/mL, and sufficiency in the range from 33-80 ng/mL, with normal in sunny countries 54-90 ng/mL, and excess greater than 100 ng/mL. Solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) irradiation is the primary source of vitamin D for most people. In general, the health benefits accruing from moderate UV irradiation, without erythema or excess tanning, greatly outweigh the health risks, with skin pigmentation (melanin) providing much of the protection. In the absence of adequate solar UVB irradiation due to season, latitude, or lifestyle, vitamin D can be obtained from fortified food, oily fish, vitamin D supplements, and artificial sources of UVB radiation.
Altern Med Rev. 2005 Jun;10(2):94-111
Human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP) gene is a direct target of the vitamin D receptor and is strongly up-regulated in myeloid cells by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3.
The innate immune system of mammals provides a rapid response to repel assaults from numerous infectious agents including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. A major component of this system is a diverse combination of cationic antimicrobial peptides that include the alpha- and beta-defensins and cathelicidins. In this study, we show that 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 and three of its analogs induced expression of the human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP) gene. This induction was observed in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), immortalized keratinocyte, and colon cancer cell lines, as well as normal human bone marrow (BM) -derived macrophages and fresh BM cells from two normal individuals and one AML patient. The induction occurred via a consensus vitamin D response element (VDRE) in the CAMP promoter that was bound by the vitamin D receptor (VDR). Induction of CAMP in murine cells was not observed and expression of CAMP mRNA in murine VDR-deficient bone marrow was similar to wild-type levels. Comparison of mammalian genomes revealed evolutionary conservation of the VDRE in a short interspersed nuclear element or SINE in the CAMP promoter of primates that was absent in the mouse, rat, and canine genomes. Our findings reveal a novel activity of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 and the VDR in regulation of primate innate immunity.
FASEB J. 2005 Jul;19(9):1067-77
Antimicrobial peptides in the airway.
The airway provides numerous defense mechanisms to prevent microbial colonization by the large numbers of bacteria and viruses present in ambient air. An important component of this defense is the antimicrobial peptides and proteins present in the airway surface fluid (ASF), the mucin-rich fluid covering the respiratory epithelium. These include larger proteins such as lysozyme and lactoferrin, as well as the cationic defensin and cathelicidin peptides. While some of these peptides, such as human beta-defensin (hBD)-1, are present constitutively, others, including hBD2 and -3 are inducible in response to bacterial recognition by Toll-like receptor-mediated pathways. These peptides can act as microbicides in the ASF, but also exhibit other activities, including potent chemotactic activity for cells of the innate and adaptive immune systems, suggesting they play a complex role in the host defense of the airway. Inhibition of antimicrobial peptide activity or gene expression can result in increased susceptibility to infections. This has been observed with cystic fibrosis (CF), where the CF phenotype leads to reduced antimicrobial capacity of peptides in the airway. Pathogenic virulence factors can inhibit defensin gene expression, as can environmental factors such as air pollution. Such an interference can result in infections by airway-specific pathogens including Bordetella bronchiseptica, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and influenza virus. Research into the modulation of peptide gene expression in animal models, as well as the optimization of peptide-based therapeutics shows promise for the treatment and prevention of airway infectious diseases.
Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2006;306:153-82
Injury enhances TLR2 function and antimicrobial peptide expression through a vitamin D-dependent mechanism.
An essential element of the innate immune response to injury is the capacity to recognize microbial invasion and stimulate production of antimicrobial peptides. We investigated how this process is controlled in the epidermis. Keratinocytes surrounding a wound increased expression of the genes coding for the microbial pattern recognition receptors CD14 and TLR2, complementing an increase in cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide expression. These genes were induced by 1,25(OH)2 vitamin D3 (1,25D3; its active form), suggesting a role for vitamin D3 in this process. How 1,25D3 could participate in the injury response was explained by findings that the levels of CYP27B1, which converts 25OH vitamin D3 (25D3) to active 1,25D3, were increased in wounds and induced in keratinocytes in response to TGF-beta1. Blocking the vitamin D receptor, inhibiting CYP27B1, or limiting 25D3 availability prevented TGF-beta1 from inducing cathelicidin, CD14, or TLR2 in human keratinocytes, while CYP27B1-deficient mice failed to increase CD14 expression following wounding. The functional consequence of these observations was confirmed by demonstrating that 1,25D3 enabled keratinocytes to recognize microbial components through TLR2 and respond by cathelicidin production. Thus, we demonstrate what we believe to be a previously unexpected role for vitamin D3 in innate immunity, enabling keratinocytes to recognize and respond to microbes and to protect wounds against infection.
J Clin Invest. 2007 Mar;117(3):803-11