To Your Health: COVID-19, Vitamin D & Latitude

To Your Health: COVID-19, Vitamin D & Latitude

Part-time Telluride local Dr. Alan Safdi, a world-renowned internist and gastroenterologist with encyclopedic knowledge of mind-body wellness and preventative medicine, posts on Telluride Inside… and Out under the banner of “To Your Health.” His blogs feature the most current information in his field: health, wellness, and longevity. Which now has to mean Dr. Alan’s podcasts are all about what’s on everyone’s mind: COVID-19. 

The links to his most recent podcasts on COVID-19 are here:

Podcast 1: Distancing during Covid-19 Epidemic…how far is enough?  Also proper hand-washing teehnique.

Podcast 2: Testing for Covid-19 and what are the differences and indications for each type of test?

Below is a story about COVD-19, vitamin D and latitude. Dr. Alan curated this highly informative article, written by a group of doctors from across the pond. 

There are marked variations in mortality from COVID-19 between different countries. It is becoming clear that countries in the Southern Hemisphere are seeing a relatively low mortality. It could be argued that the virus spread later to the Southern Hemisphere and that countries there are simply behind those in the Northern Hemisphere, but as time goes by this argument looks increasingly weak.

In Australia 100 cases were reported by 10th March, 1000 by 21st March; in the UK the first 100 had been reported by 5th March and the first 1000 by 14th March, just one week earlier. If one compares the mortality (68 per million) in the UK by 3rd April with the mortality (2 per million) in Australia by 10th April there is still a huge discrepancy.

When mortality per million is plotted against latitude it can be seen that all countries that lie below 35 degrees North have relatively low mortality. Thirty-five degrees North also happens to be the latitude above which people do not receive sufficient sunlight to retain adequate vitamin D levels during winter. This suggests a possible role for vitamin D in determining outcomes from COVID-19.

There are outliers of course – mortality is relatively low in Nordic countries – but there vitamin D deficiency is relatively uncommon, probably due to widespread use of supplements. Italy and Spain, perhaps surprisingly, have relatively high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency has also been shown to correlate with hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and ethnicity – all features associated with increased risk of severe COVID-19.

There are considerable experimental data showing that vitamin D is important in regulating and suppressing the inflammatory cytokine response of respiratory epithelial cells and macrophages to various pathogens, including respiratory viruses. Evidence that vitamin D might protect against infection is modest, but it is important to note that the hypothesis is not that vitamin D would protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection, but that it could be very important in preventing the cytokine storm and subsequent Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome that is commonly the cause of mortality.

Research is urgently needed to assess whether there may be a correlation between vitamin D status and severity of COVID-19 disease. Meanwhile the evidence supporting a protective effect of vitamin D against severe COVID-19 disease is very suggestive, a substantial proportion of the population in the Northern Hemisphere will currently be vitamin D deficient, and supplements e.g. 1000 international units per day are very safe. It is time for governments to strengthen recommendations for vitamin D intake and supplementation, particularly when under lock-down.

Dr. Alan, more:

Dr. Alan Safdi is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Gastroenterology and is a Fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology. A proven leader in the healthcare arena, he has been featured on the national program, “Medical Crossfire” and authored or co-authored numerous medical articles and abstracts. Safdi has been involved in grant-based and clinical research for four decades and is passionate about disease prevention and wellness, not just fixing what has gone wrong. He is an international lecturer on the subjects of wellness, nutrition and gastroenterology.

As the world turns, there is a chance Dr. Alan, in partnership withThe Peaks Spa, will return with wellness intensives titled “Live Longer Retreat.” If that occurs, he will be assisted by yoga and Pilates instructors, athletic trainers, dietitians, chefs at the Peaks. Limited to only 10 – 15 participants, these intensives include personal consultations, hiking, spinning, yoga, talks and demonstrations related to nutrition, cooking classes, and more.

For all program information, go to his Telluride Longevity Institute website or sign up by calling 1-877-448-5416.

Go here to read a review of the experience by one very satisfied participant.


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