Scientists find why "sunshine" vitamin D is crucial

Vitamin D Crucial To Activating Immune Defenses

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have discovered that Vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defenses and that without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system – T cells – will not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body.

For T cells to detect and kill foreign pathogens such as clumps of bacteria or viruses, the cells must first be ‘triggered’ into action and ‘transform’ from inactive and harmless immune cells into killer cells that are primed to seek out and destroy all traces of a foreign pathogen.

The researchers found that the T cells rely on vitamin D in order to activate and they would remain dormant, ‘naive’ to the possibility of threat if vitamin D is lacking in the blood.

Chemical Reaction that Enables Activation

In order for the specialized immune cells (T cells) to protect the body from dangerous viruses or bacteria, the T cells must first be exposed to traces of the foreign pathogen. This occurs when they are presented by other immune cells in the body (known as macrophages) with suspicious ‘cell fragments’ or ‘traces’ of the pathogen. The T cells then bind to the fragment and divide and multiply into hundreds of identical cells that are all focused on the same pathogen type. The sequence of chemical changes that the T cells undergo enables them to both be ‘sensitized to’ and able to deliver a targeted immune response.

Professor Carsten Geisler from the Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology explains that “when a T cell is exposed to a foreign pathogen, it extends a signaling device or ‘antenna’ known as a vitamin D receptor, with which it searches for vitamin D. This means that the T cell must have vitamin D or activation of the cell will cease. If the T cells cannot find enough vitamin D in the blood, they won’t even begin to mobilize. ”

T cells that are successfully activated transform into one of two types of immune cell. They either become killer cells that will attack and destroy all cells carrying traces of a foreign pathogen or they become helper cells that assist the immune system in acquiring “memory”. The helper cells send messages to the immune system, passing on knowledge about the pathogen so that the immune system can recognize and remember it at their next encounter. T cells form part of the adaptive immune system, which means that they function by teaching the immune system to recognize and adapt to constantly changing threats.

Activating and Deactivating the Immune System

For the research team, identifying the role of vitamin D in the activation of T cells has been a major breakthrough. “Scientists have known for a long time that vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and the vitamin has also been implicated in diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, but what we didn’t realize is how crucial vitamin D is for actually activating the immune system – which we know now. ”

The discovery, the scientists believe, provides much needed information about the immune system and will help them regulate the immune response. This is important not only in fighting disease but also in dealing with anti-immune reactions of the body and the rejection of transplanted organs. Active T cells multiply at an explosive rate and can create an inflammatory environment with serious consequences for the body. After organ transplants, e.g. T cells can attack the donor organ as a “foreign invader”. In autoimmune disease, hypersensitive T cells mistake fragments of the body’s own cells for foreign pathogens, leading to the body launching an attack upon itself.

The research team was also able to track the biochemical sequence of the transformation of an inactive T cell to an active cell, and thus would be able to intervene at several points to modulate the immune response. Inactive or ‘naive’ T cells crucially contain neither the vitamin D receptor nor a specific molecule (PLC-gamma1) that would enable the cell to deliver an antigen specific response.

The findings, continues Professor Geisler “could help us to combat infectious diseases and global epidemics. They will be of particular use when developing new vaccines, which work precisely on the basis of both training our immune systems to react and suppressing the body’s natural defenses in situations where this is important – as is the case with organ transplants and autoimmune disease.”

Most Vitamin D is produced as a natural byproduct of the skin’s exposure to sunlight. It can also be found in fish liver oil, eggs and fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel or taken as a dietary supplement. No definitive studies have been carried out for the optimal daily dosage of vitamin D but as a large proportion of the population have very low concentrations of vitamin D in the blood, a number of experts recommend between 25-50mg micrograms a day.

Source: University if Copenhagen

Swine Flu and D-ficiency

zarkovThere is a lot of excitement in the medical world about vitamin D as a preventative – or even as a treatment! – for a wide variety of problems, including infectious diseases such as influenza and colds. The basic idea is as follows: Vitamin D is essential for certain parts of the immune system to function properly. The body gets much of its vitamin D from the action of sunlight on the skin. During the fall and winter, most people get too little sunlight exposure and become deficient in vitamin D. Their immunity to flu and colds therefore declines, making them susceptible to flu infections. This is why flu epidemics tend to occur during these months.

Epidemiologists have long noticed that flu epidemics don’t follow the patterns expected of a disease that is transmitted simply by the infecting of people who are well by people who are sick (i.e., by people who are coughing, sniffling, and spewing virus-laden fluids). For example, it has been noticed that in the tropics there is no special “flu season”, whereas in temperate regions epidemics occur mainly in the fall and winter. And there are other ways in which actual flu epidemics don’t match their expected behavior.

Various explanations have been proposed for these discrepancies. The explanation that appears to make the most sense is the one mentioned above involving vitamin D deficiencies. This explanation accounts for many of features of real epidemics. For example, vitamin D deficiencies are more severe during the fall and winter in temperate regions, but in tropical regions people get good sun exposure all year round, and therefore have no seasonal deficiency.

How much vitamin D should one take to protect against the flu? Very little research has been done to find out, but experts have made some pretty good guesses from the existing data:

  • For prevention, at least 5000 i.u. of vitamin D3 per day.
  • To treat an existing flu infection in an adult, 140,000 i.u. of vitamin D3 per day for 7 days.

Long-term use of more than 40,000 i.u. per day is unwise because in some people these dosages may cause excess calcium build-up in the body (‘hypercalcemia’).

I myself use 25,000 i.u. per day. I often miss a day, but this is no problem because the body stores this vitamin long enough to even out the peaks and valleys in the dosing schedule. I use LifeLink’s high-potency vitamin D3 product: D3ZO. (I helped to design the formulation, so I trust this product more than I do any of the other D3 brands.)

I definitely don’t recommend that vitamin D be substituted for a flu vaccination. They work by different mechanisms and should be seen as complementary preventions. One is a back-up for the other. Flu vaccinations can easily fail to provide adequate protection against fast-mutating flu strains such as Swine Flu or Bird Flu. When these flu strains suddenly become resistant to the current vaccine, there is no time to reformulate the vaccine before a major epidemic occurs. In this case, those who have been taking high-dose vitamin D can have an advantage over everyone else. I always get a flu shot each year, and now I have the extra confidence that comes from having vitamin D protection as well.


[1] On the epidemiology of influenza. Virol J. 2008; 5:29 Cannell JJ, Zasloff M, Garland CF, Scragg R, Giovannucci E

[2] H1N1 Flu and Vitamin D Vitamin D Council website John Jacob Cannell MD

[3] Use of vitamin D in clinical practice. Altern Med Rev. 2008 Mar; 13(1):6-20

BHT and the silent epidemic…Herpes

zarkovA little over 25 years ago a paper got published in the journal Science showing that BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene), a common food preservative, could inactivate herpes simplex and other lipid-coated viruses in lab dishes. Two years later another paper in the same journal reported similar results, but this time in live animals dietary BHT could prevent chickens from dying of Newcastle disease. Like herpes simplex, NDV (the virus that causes Newcastle disease) is lipid-enveloped, i.e., its nucleic acid core is sheathed in a fatty membrane. Viruses of this type require an intact membrane to be infective. BHT seems to work against such viruses by disrupting (“fluidizing”) their viral membranes.

In the chicken study cited above, the amount of BHT needed to inhibit NDV turned out to be equal to the amount already present in chicken feed as an additive, i.e., 100 to 200 parts per million of total diet. Assuming a comparable result for humans and a total food intake of about 2 kilograms per day, this would mean that 200 to 400 milligrams of BHT ingested daily should be adequate to protect most people from infection by herpes and other lipid-coated viruses. See Table for a listing of common viruses which have a lipid envelope and are therefore amenable to inhibition by BHT.

If our diet consisted exclusively of foods containing BHT as a preservative (such as some breakfast cereals, potato flakes, chewing gum, and certain baked goods made with shortening), we’d probably get enough BHT to ward off herpes or mumps and measles for that matter. But we don’t. Most of our diets tend to be more varied than that and, besides, in recent years we’ve all been conditioned to avoid food additives.

The other option for getting enough dietary BHT is to consume it as a food supplement, a controversial proposition at best because it isn’t a nutrient it’s a synthetic antioxidant. Nevertheless, this is precisely what some pioneering life-extensionists did in the late 70s. Inspired by early scientific reports on the antiviral activity of BHT, a number of people suffering from herpes began to experiment on themselves. As described in several books published a few years later, the BHT experimenters discovered that a daily dose of 250 to 1000 mg resulted in rapid recovery from herpes eruptions with no recurrences. This figure is in good agreement with the estimate based on the chicken study above.

In addition to these anecdotal reports, a number of studies published over the years have confirmed the activity of BHT against many different human and animal viruses, including such members of the herpes family as CMV or cytomegalovirus and pseudorabies as well as genital herpes. BHT has been shown to inhibit infectivity of HIV, the AIDS virus, although contradictory results have also been reported. Several studies have revealed a protective effect of BHT against the development of influenza infection as well. The mechanism involved may have to do with the fact that BHT is a highly potent, membrane-active antioxidant as well as a membrane fluidizer. It’s known that reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a role in the pathogenesis of viral infections including RNA viruses such as influenza, DNA viruses such as hepatitis B, and retroviruses such as HIV and it’s been suggested that antioxidants may be useful as therapeutic agents in such infections.

If BHT is so effective against lipid-enveloped viruses, why don’t doctors prescribe it for their patients? The answer is that almost none of the controlled studies on the antiviral properties of BHT have been performed on humans; most of the experiments thus far have been conducted in lab dishes (in vitro) or in animals. A human clinical trial of BHT cannot be performed because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved BHT for use only as a food preservative, not as a medicine. But that hasn’t stopped some people from using BHT on their own to treat herpes or other viral conditions.

Since it is not a natural product, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has prohibited its sale as a supplement (although approving its use in food as a preservative).  BHT is therefore sold as a food preservative. To use this product in a government-approved manner, “add BHT to cooking oils or salad dressings to retain their freshness.”

In the past, safety concerns have been sometimes raised about BHT because of its reputed toxicity when given to rats in massive doses – doses much larger than those usually consumed for their antiviral effect. On the other hand, 25 years is long enough for any adverse effects as well as positive benefits to have shown up in humans. Many individuals including my friend Roger, whom I’ve known since high school have been supplementing with BHT on a regular basis for years at a time. Roger looks pretty healthy to me these days, but I phoned him anyway to press him for details on his BHT experience.

Roger first began taking BHT in 1984 after reading about it in Pearson and Shaw’s groundbreaking book “Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach.” Initially he took about 1 gram per day because he was buying BHT in bulk at the time and larger amounts were easier to measure out than smaller ones. Later he was able to obtain BHT in capsules containing 250 mg per cap, and from that point on he took 250 mg every day for 6 to 7 years. Not surprisingly, during this period he remained completely free of herpes eruptions. More surprising is that he still remains herpes-free to this day, 19 years after his last dose of BHT. Around 6 years ago Roger had a comprehensive physical exam, including blood work. His physician told him that no antibodies to the herpes simplex virus could be found in his system.

Today Roger’s health is generally excellent, with no indication that his years of supplementing with BHT have harmed him in any way. The only adverse effect he ever encountered happened early on, while he was still experimenting with the size of the dose. Roger found that taking 3 grams of BHT each day resulted in dizziness and disorientation, which quickly disappeared when he cut his dose back to 1 gram per day. No adverse effects were seen thereafter.

Of course, a sample of one doesn’t constitute much of a survey. I needed to consult a larger database, so I turned to Steven Fowkes, resident guru at the Cognitive Enhancement Research Institute ( in Menlo Park, California and co-author of Wipe Out Herpes with BHT. Steve, by the way, is working on an updated version of his 1983 book.

Steve Fowkes was unequivocal in his judgment. In the decades since BHT first arrived on the supplement scene, Steve hasn’t heard of any adverse reactions other than two minor ones. First, BHT can cause hives in some people who are sensitive to it. Second, BHT can cause a temporary decrease in blood clotting when people first begin taking it in substantial doses.

Allergic sensitivities to food additives such as dyes and preservatives have been known for some time but the role of these additives in precipitating chronic urticaria (hives) or other symptoms is still a matter of debate. Only a few cases over the years have identified low-level BHT intake as the sole cause of hives, so this reaction is not likely to be very common; however, it may well become more common if provoked by large doses of BHT. Fortunately, the condition tends to clear up after BHT use is halted.

As for the transient blood-thinning effect, Steve cautioned that people who have never taken BHT before should acclimatize themselves by starting out with small doses (less than 250 mg for the first day, if possible) and ramping up gradually over the course of a week; there is a special need for caution among those who are taking anticoagulants at the same time. In no case should the final dose exceed 1 gram per day without medical supervision. BHT’s anticlotting effect will diminish within 2 days in any event, unless extremely high doses (around 5 grams per day or higher) are being taken.

But what about liver toxicity? BHT gets metabolized in the liver, so won’t taking large amounts compromise liver function? Steve’s response was that he has spoken with literally hundreds of people who have successfully treated themselves for herpes with BHT. So long as a dose level of 1 gram per day was not exceeded, no cases of hepatic injury (as determined by pathologically high serum levels of the liver enzymes ALT and AST) have yet been reported by this group.

Unfortunately, some people taking BHT will find that not even 1 gram per day is sufficient to eradicate herpes. According to Steve Fowkes, the problem lies not with BHT but rather with the individual; the more unbalanced a person’s metabolic state, the less effective BHT seems to become. Rather than increasing the dose to more than a gram per day, Steve suggests maintaining the BHT level while supplementing with additional nutrients, including vitamins B12 and B6, polyunsaturated fatty acids, magnesium, and selenium; vitamin A is also suggested, although women who are capable of getting pregnant should limit their intake of this vitamin. In addition, anyone who suspects they are hypometabolic should arrange to have a thyroid test done, since hypothyroidism can increase the body’s viral susceptibility.

Finally, Steve suggested that the combination of BHT with hypericin (from St. John’s wort) is a synergistic antiviral combination, more effective than BHT alone. To determine an appropriate dose level, hypericin intake should be ramped up gradually from 1 mg per day until an effective dose is reached, usually 10 mg per day or less. Steve also recommended pulsing the hypericin at the effective dose level, i.e., using it for about a week at a time with time off between dosing episodes. Because hypericin can cause photosensitivity of the skin, sun exposure should be limited to half the usual daily amount during and after hypericin intake. One of the nice features of BHT is that it tends to inhibit any oxidative stress induced by hypericin; for this reason, Steve feels that anyone taking hypericin should always take BHT with it. More information on hypericin will appear in a future article on this blog.

After talking with Steve Fowkes and reviewing the scientific literature, I’ve concluded that the benefits of taking BHT seem to greatly outweigh the risks. In the process of researching this article I was reminded of a fundamental principle of toxicology first enunciated around 500 years ago by Paracelsus, the great Renaissance physician and alchemist: “All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The correct dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.” Or in the present case, “the correct dose differentiates a remedy from a food additive.”

For a more information on BHT see the article at:

You may download the latest eBook on BHT here

Table of Common Lipid-Enveloped Human and Animal Viruses.

Only the ones in the left-hand column can be inhibited by BHT alone.

Lipid-enveloped viruses Non-enveloped viruses
  • hepatitis B
  • hepatitis C
  • HIV
  • Influenza
  • herpes family
    herpes zoster
  • paramixoviruses
  • hepatitis A
  • polio
  • rhinoviruses
    (the common cold)
  • adenovirus
  • Coxsacie virus

Why Flu Epidemics Occur in Winter

As we wait for this year’s influenza epidemic to begin, keep in mind we are also waiting for the “big one” the pandemic (pan: all, demic: people). A severe influenza A pandemic will kill many more Americans than died in the fall of the World Trade Center, the Iraq war, the Tsunami, and during Hurricane Katrina combined. Perhaps a million or two in the United States alone. Such a disaster would tear the fabric of our society. Our entire country would resemble New Orleans after Katrina.

It’s only a question of when, not if, it will come. Pandemics come every 25 years or so, severe ones every hundred years or so. The last pandemic occurred in 1968. It was the Hong Kong flu and it killed 34,000 Americans. Prior to that, in 1918, the Spanish flu killed more than 500,000 Americans along with several million others around the globe. So many, in fact, that they couldn’t bury the bodies.

Young healthy adults that had been in the prime of their lives in the morning were drowning in their own inflammation by noon, grossly discolored by sunset, and dead by midnight. It was the body’s overwhelming immune response to this influenza virus macrophages releasing large amounts of inflammatory agents (called cytokines and chemokines) into the lung of the afflicted that resulted in the millions of deaths.

Keep in mind that the Germans recently discovered that vitamin D is intimately involved in reining in these macrophages, thereby holding their cytokine production back so they don’t overshoot and kill their owner along with the invader.

Antigenic Shift

Your annual flu shot won’t help when the “big one” hits, because the virus will have gone through what they call an antigenic shift (abrupt change), making current vaccines ineffectual. A new vaccine that is specific to the new virus must be manufactured and this will take time. It would be prudent to obtain in advance some antiviral drugs from one’s doctor. Because once the pandemic starts, whether it be this year or 10 years from now, the supply of antivirals will probably be insufficient and the lines will be long.

Conflicting Theories

You may find it surprising that influenza remains an enigma. Current theory holds that influenza infects in the same manner as the measles does: one person gets it then gives it to others who, in turn, give it to others in a chain of infectious events. This theory has some problems. For example, Dr. Carolyn Buxton Bridges of the CDC recently published a review paper on the transmission of influenza. She noted, “Our review found no human experimental studies published in the English language literature delineating person-to-person transmission of influenza.”

Most experts think that pandemic strains originate in birds or other animals. Doctors Ann Reid and Jeffery Taubenberger of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology recently wrote, “it is important to recognize that the mechanisms by which pandemic strains originate have not been explained yet.” Furthermore, there is a persistent theory that influenza lies dormant, not in birds or in swine, but in humans, where it mutates into a killer strain.

So, get this year’s flu shot and stock up on some antivirals. In the meantime, let’s see if we can uncover some ignored facts that might improve one’s family’s chances when the next pandemic arrives

Influenza’s Seasonal Nature and Dr. Edward Hope-Simpson

Last month we saw that aggressive treatment of vitamin D deficiency prevented children from getting infections. Although Dr. Rehman didn’t differentiate between viral and bacterial infections, most of the illnesses vitamin D prevented were probably viral.

When looking for ignored facts one should always start with epidemiology, the detective branch of medicine. Epidemiologists look for clues which will lead to theories. These theories can then be tested and, if true, could result in saving lives. One of the world’s pioneering epidemiologists, R. Edward Hope-Simpson, used a meticulous, solitary approach to his work. It was he who discovered that the chickenpox virus was reactivated in adults, causing shingles. Dr. Hope-Simpson became famous.

In 1979, he turned his attention to influenza A. He studied two remote populations, one in Wales and the other in England. He found that most affected households had only one case of influenza. Furthermore, no serial time intervals could be identified in cumulative household outbreaks that is, different families did not get sick one after another, but around the same time. He discovered other facts that also did not fit with the theory that influenza A is primarily spread by person-to-person transmission.

The rest of his life was spent trying to make known a basic fact of influenza: it is distinctly seasonal. All theories about its transmission must take into account its seasonality. Hope-Simpson reminded us what Davenport said, “Epidemiological hypotheses must provide satisfactory explanations for all the known findings, not just for a convenient subset of them.”

Epidemics’ Timing Determined by Latitude

Going back to 1945, Hope-Simpson discovered that influenza epidemics above 30 degrees latitude in both hemispheres occurred during the six months of least solar radiation and that outbreaks in the tropics almost always occurred during the rainy season. He thus concluded, “Latitude alone broadly determines the timing of the epidemics in the annual cycle, a relationship that suggests a rather direct effect of some component of solar radiation acting positively or negatively upon the virus, the human host, or their interaction.” That is, something may be regularly reducing our immunity every fall and winter.

In 2003 researchers confirmed that influenza epidemics in the tropics occur, with few exceptions, during the rainy season, when vitamin D levels should be falling.

In his 1981 paper, Hope-Simpson wondered how the same virus could cause influenza outbreaks at exactly the same time (middle of winter) over a six-year period (1969–1974) in two widely separated areas (Prague, Czechoslovakia and Cirencester, England). Surely, during the middle of the Cold War, infected people did not arrive at two locations hundreds of miles apart, in the middle of winter and for five years in a row to infect the well people! But there is something Prague and Cirencester have in common: they are both located at 50 degrees latitude.

In 1990 researchers confirmed a relative lack of country-to-country transmission, by looking at two countries with heavy tourist traffic between them.

Decreasing Sunlight Activates Latent Virus

Hope-Simpson rejected the theory that each year’s virus is only transmitted from actively infected persons to well persons, concluding instead that the facts were more consistent with transmission by symptomless carriers. Carriers who become contagious when the sun is either in the other hemisphere, or obscured by the rainy season. He theorized that the annual movement of the sun caused a “seasonal stimulus that reactivates latent virus in the innumerable carriers who are everywhere present, so creating the opportunity for epidemics to occur in the wake of its passage.” And thus the celebrated Dr. Hope-Simpson committed heresy.

Everyone knows influenza transmission is direct: the ill infect those who are well. The accepted theory of pandemics is that the virus first spreads in birds, perhaps jumps to a mammal (pigs in 1918), then jumps to humans already infected with a common influenza strain. There it combines and mutates (reassortment) to a hybrid virus in the index case. That person then spreads it to others who spread it to others, etc. “No,” said Hope-Simpson, “the epidemiology just does not fit that theory.” “Heresy,” said the experts.

Hope-Simpson practiced medicine in the small village of Cirencester in southwest England. He went back and looked at 16 years of his medical records and found evidence of 20 influenza outbreaks spaced over those 16 years. In every outbreak, he found young children were the most frequently affected. Yet, not one of those outbreaks indicated the children as being the major disseminators of the virus. Furthermore, all ages seemed to get sick around the same time. He concluded, “Such age-patterns are not those caused by a highly infectious immunizing virus surviving by means of direct transmissions from the sick, whose prompt development of the disease continues endless chains of transmissions.”

No one listened. Everyone knew, as they still do today: influenza only occurs when the sick infect the well. “I don’t think so,” said Hope-Simpson. In search of more evidence, he went to all the parishes in Gloucestershire, which are separated by many miles. He looked at burial records for the last 500 years and found evidence of repeated influenza epidemics. He concluded, “In each century, influenzal excess mortalities in Gloucestershire parishes coincided with the date of the relevant influenza epidemic as recorded from widely different parts of Britain.” That is, long before modern rapid transit, everyone in Britain got the flu around the same time! How could it spread by one person infecting another when everyone all over Britain got sick at the same time long before planes, trains, and automobiles?

In fact, after studying influenza epidemics in schools, two scientists named Hoyle and Wickramasinghe also decided that direct spread by infected children could not explain what was happening. They theorized that influenza viral precursors were reaching earth on comets from outer space!

Content to stay on earth, Hope-Simpson published a detailed theory of influenza’s infectivity in 1987, based on the facts he observed. Right or wrong, Hope-Simpson’s paper is wonderful reading for anyone interested in influenza. Here is a great mind at work. He noted that any valid theory of influenza must explain a number of facts:

  • Vast explosions of disease, which may attack 15% or more of a large community within six weeks, and then cease.
  • Successive outbreaks of type A influenza in small, relatively remote communities often coincide closely, season after season, with those of the country as a whole and, although the virus changes, the identical strains of virus appear contemporaneously in the two situations.
  • Cessation of epidemics despite abundant available non-immune subjects.
  • Household outbreaks occur all at once, not one after another.
  • Low secondary attack rates within households.
  • Epidemic patterns of influenza have not changed in four centuries and do not appear to have altered with the increasing speed and complexity of human communications.

Solar Radiation As Stimulus

Hope Simpson proposed that symptomless carriers became infective in response to a seasonal stimulus and then infect others, causing simultaneous explosions of disease in widely different areas. Furthermore, he concluded that those who got sick were not particularly contagious. He proposed that the stimulus for infection “is dependent on variations in solar radiation, an extraterrestrial influence unaffected by the rapidity of human travel. The rapidity of influenza spread was as rapid in previous centuries as it is at present because it does not depend on case-to-case transfer.” He added, “The primary agency mediating seasonal control remains unidentified.” That is, if something is weakening our immune system every year, as regularly as the changing of the leaves and declining vitamin D levels, he didn’t know what it was. Hope-Simpson’s 1987 paper was his last and, in 1992, he compiled all his work on influenza into a book entitled The Transmission of Epidemic Influenza (The Language of Science). He died in 2003, at the age of 95.

I wish Hope-Simpson could have lived a while longer, enabling him to read the work of Dr. Colleen Hayes and her colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is one of the brightest vitamin D researchers out there. In 2003, she reviewed the profound effect vitamin D has on the immune system, including the role vitamin D plays in fighting infections.

Vitamin D As Possible Prevention

Yes, as regularly as the flu season, vitamin D levels plummet in the fall and winter, vitamin D has profound effects on the immune system, and vitamin D may be involved in influenza. But is there any direct evidence?

Two animal studies have shown vitamin D does indeed prevent the flu, yet a third study indicated it did not. Nothing after 1956. If you obtain and read the first citation referenced at the end of this paragraph, you will see that the very first animal paper indicating vitamin D protected rats from influenza was published in Japan during World War II, apparently part of Japan’s biological weapons research. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) confiscated the paper after the war.

Yet another study revealed that when you give flu shots to hemodialysis patients, those taking activated vitamin D develop significantly better immunity.

Will normal vitamin D levels protect your family against the flu? No one knows. It would be nice if we had a report from a big hospital that happened to experience a flu outbreak with some of the patients having been on vitamin D and some not. Would the patients on vitamin D be less likely to get the flu?

In the meantime, it seems to me the smart thing to do is to take enough real vitamin D which is vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) or get enough UVB light so as to achieve a 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of about 50 ng/mL. Of course, it is a good idea to maintain this level year-round, even if you don’t fear the coming influenza pandemic. 50 ng/mL is the normal human level and protects the owner from a myriad of chronic diseases.

Also, don’t depend on high levels in the summer being stored and used in the winter. Vieth believes that the intracellular kinetics of vitamin D metabolism is such that declining vitamin D blood levels may cause rapidly declining intracellular levels. That is, declining levels in the autumn may be as dangerous as low levels in the winter.

How Much Vitamin D?

So how much vitamin D should one take? Professor Robert Heaney believes healthy blood levels may require up to 4,000 units a day for those with no sun exposure. Most people need to take more in the winter than the summer. Larger people and African Americans need more than little people and caucasians. Sunphobes need more than those who enjoy God’s invention.

Children over 50 pounds need up to 2,000 units a day. Those under 50 pounds, should receive about 1,000 units a day. The only way to know for certain how much one needs is to have a 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test. The test should be conducted in the late winter, when vitamin D levels are lowest, as well as at the beginning of fall, when vitamin D levels are highest. This will indicate how much to take to keep stable levels. Or, adults can simply take 4,000 units a day, every day, excluding those days spent in the sun during late spring, summer, and early fall.

It might be a good idea to keep pharmacological doses (50,000 units) of vitamin D next to your antivirals and to take one of these 50,000 unit capsules at the first sign of the flu, although there is not yet one study to support such a practice. It might help tame those unchained macrophages, possibly saving one’s life. Or, it might not help at all. Single administrations of 10 times that amount have repeatedly been found to be safe and are routinely used in Europe as stoss therapy for vitamin D deficiency.

Maybe vitamin D could end up helping one’s family survive the coming influenza pandemic, or maybe not. Let’s gamble. Ever heard of the vitamin D variation of Pascals wager?

Pascal’s (Vitamin D) Wager

“If one erroneously believes vitamin D is effective against influenza, they lose nothing, whereas if one correctly believes vitamin D is effective against influenza, it may result in saving their life. But if one correctly disbelieves in vitamin D, they gain nothing, whereas if one erroneously disbelieves in vitamin D, the mistake could prove fatal.”

John Cannell, MD
The Vitamin D Council
9100 San Gregorio Road
Atascadero, CA 93422

This is a periodic newsletter from the Vitamin D Council, a non-profit trying to end the epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. This newsletter is not copyrighted. Please reproduce it and post it on Internet sites.

The H1N1 Flu Epidemic of 1918

zarkovThe flu pandemic that killed tens of millions of people during and after World War I was caused by an H1N1 strain of flu virus. It was referred to as ‘the Spanish Flu’, although the first wave of this pandemic seems to have begun in Kansas in January 1918 as a highly contagious flu with unusually severe symptoms. It spread from the countryside to army bases, and from there to Europe where American troops were being sent in huge numbers. By summer it was world-wide.

The death rate from this first wave of influenza was generally low, but there were exceptions – meaning that more damaging substrains were evolving. For example, in late May, 5% of a group of 1018 French army recruits died of the flu.

By August the disease had run its course in the U.S. and seemed to disappear. But in September a more virulent strain was brought back from Europe by returning U.S. soldiers – this time the fatality rate was much higher. Constant troop movements between army bases soon spread the disease across the country and out into the general public.

What is especially shocking is that President Woodrow Wilson and his administration made no effort at all to deal with the influenza epidemic. The government’s attention was focused entirely on the war and on putting as many soldiers as possible into the battle. Medical experts urged the government to limit the movement of troops between military bases, and to temporarily halt the transport of troops to Europe. Their advice was completely ignored. Troops were freely shuttled between army bases, spreading the disease. When soldiers aboard ships bound for Europe came down with the flu, the ships quickly ran out of hospital space. Men were lashed to the decks and exposed to the weather and waves. They died by the thousands and their bodies were dumped overboard. Those who survived, many of whom were now infected, were then mixed in with the troops already in Europe.

Ways to minimize exposure

Flu viruses are passed from one person to another mainly by direct or indirect contact. While it is possible to be infected by breathing air where an infected person has recently sneezed or coughed, most infections occur when an infected person touches his mouth, nose, or eye, then touches an object (such as a doorknob or railing), leaving a smear of infected saliva, mucus, or tears on it; if that object is subsequently touched by an uninfected person who then touches his own mouth, nose, or eye, the virus can gain access to the uninfected person’s body.

This being the case — and supposing that you find yourself in a town where an H1N1 flu epidemic is in progress – it is fairly obvious what you must do to avoid exposure:

  • Stay away from public places. In fact, stay at home as much as possible.
  • Buy enough canned goods to supply your meals for a month or two, so that you won’t be forced to go out for food. Don’t rely on frozen food – in a really bad pandemic, there may be long-lasting electric power failures.
  • Get some medical face masks for protection in case you do have to go out in public. The purpose of wearing a mask is not so much to protect you from other people’s sneezes and coughs, but to prevent you from touching your own nose and mouth after your hands have picked up infected residues from objects recently touched by infected people (for example, from doorknobs, railings, and merchandise).

Ways yo minimize infection in case of exposure

If you visit a public place during a H1N1 epidemic, you cannot be sure that you haven’t been exposed to the virus, even if you take the precautions listed above. Therefore, you should take additional measures to reduce the chance that exposure will result in infection:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you return from a public place. Then rinse your eyes, nose and lips with soapy water.
  • Take quercetin and green tea supplements to reduce the infectivity of the flu virus.
  • Take high potency vitamin D3 (25,000 iu’s daily during flu season)

How to ameliorate the disease in case of infection

  • Adopt an aggressive antioxidant regimen and stockpile enough of the antioxidants to last for at least a month or two. The regimen should include quercetin, green tea extract, vitamin E, vitamin C, N-acetylcysteine, and selenium – these have all been shown to reduce the amount of lung damage done by influenza viruses.
  • If you can get a supply of anti-flu drugs, by all means do so. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and Zanamivir (Relenza®) appear to be the best choices for fighting the existing H1N1 strain of bird-flu.
  • Take 100,000 to 150-000 iu’s of vitamin D3 (depending on weight) for 7 days

About flu viruses

Flu viruses consist of RNA molecules (containing the viral genes) and certain enzymes, folded up inside a complex envelope. The envelope is studded with molecular knobs that serve as tools for entering the cells of your body. Two of these knobs, ‘hemagglutinin’ and ‘neuraminidase’, give rise to the terminology used to describe the subtypes of flu viruses – for example, ‘H5N1’ is the subtype of the avian flu virus loose in Asia. It differs from the virus that caused the great 1918 flu epidemic (an H1N1 subtype) mainly in the structure of the hemagglutinin knobs.

The ability of your immune system to recognize the hemagglutinin knobs of a flu virus is the main determinant of how fast your body responds to an invasion of flu virus particles. If recognition occurs quickly, your body can destroy an invading viral horde before it gains a foothold in your body. But if your immune system is unfamiliar with the hemagglutinin subtype of an invading virus, the virus may proliferate in your lungs, heart, brain, or other tissues, and do tremendous damage before your immune system takes effective action.

The infectiousness of flu viruses can change easily and rapidly because the genes of these viruses undergo constant changes. The most worrisome aspect of these changes is the ability of flu viruses to swap genetic material with each other. This is a form of evolution, and it is the reason why flu strains change from year to year. Flu viruses that are good at infecting birds (but poor at infecting humans) can pick up genes from flu viruses that are good at infecting humans, and use these genes to replace their original infectivity genes

Planning for a H1N1 flu pandemic

The U.S. government and a few western countries are doing some serious planning for an H1N1 epidemic. President Obama has declared a national emergency which details plans for quarantining whole cities, setting up temporary hospitals and staffing them, stockpiling medical supplies, and even locating sites for mass burials. The British government, too, has been reported to be doing some serious planning.

Even so, there is only so much that government could do to protect you – the rest is your responsibility. As is shown earlier in this article, there are relatively inexpensive measures that individuals can take to greatly increase their chances of surviving a flu pandemic


A deadly H1N1 flu pandemic may or may not occur in the near future – there is no way to predict with any confidence. If one does occur, the countries most likely to escape disastrous consequences will be those in which the best preparations are made in advance. Government-level preparations are being made which may limit the impact of a pandemic within our borders. Preparation by individuals is most likely to help in countries such as the U.S. and Canada, which have a strong tradition of individual initiative.

British scientists testing Ukrainian 'super flu' that has killed 189 people

British scientists are examining the strain of swine flu behind a deadly Ukrainian outbreak to see if the virus has mutated.

A total of 189 people have died and more than one million have been infected in the country.

Some doctors have likened the symptoms to those seen in many of the victims of the Spanish flu which caused millions of deaths world-wide after the World War One.

An unnamed doctor in western Ukraine told of the alarming effects of the virus.

He said: ‘We have carried out post mortems on two victims and found their lungs are as black as charcoal.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (L) visits flu victims at a hospital in the western Ukrainian city of Lutsk

‘They look like they have been burned. It’s terrifying.’

Neighbouring Poland has called on the EU to take action, fearing the mystery virus may spread westwards.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk has written to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, who holds the EU presidency.

The letter said: ‘The character of this threat demands that rapid action be undertaken at the European Union level.’

Russia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania have already launched health checks on Ukrainians entering their territory.

Slovakia has closed two of five border crossings.

People wear protective masks as they sit in a subway carriage in Kiev
A butcher wearing a protective mask reads a magazine at a market in Kiev

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has called in the World Health Organisation.

A team of specialists are carrying out tests in Kiev and Lviv in an effort to identify the virus.

President Yushchenko said: ‘People are dying. The epidemic is killing doctors. This is absolutely inconceivable in the 21st Century.’

In a TV interview, the President added: ‘Unlike similar epidemics in other countries, three causes of serious viral infections came together simultaneously in Ukraine: two seasonal flus and the Californian flu.

‘Virologists conclude that this combination of infections may produce an even more aggressive new virus as a result of mutation.’

Four men and one woman have died from the flu in Lviv, said emergency hospital chief doctor Myron Borysevych.

Two of the dead patients were in the 22-35 age group, with two others over 60.

He diagnosed the disease as viral pneumonia.

‘We have sent the analysis to Kiev. We don’t believe it’s H1N1 swine flu. Neither do we know what kind of pneumonia it is.’

Universities, schools and nurseries have been closed, public meetings have been banned and theaters shut.

The virus from the Ukraine is being tested at the Medical Research council labs in Mill Hill North London .

A spokesman said: ‘We do not have a time scale for the results of the tests, although some preliminary results have been obtained. I cannot tell you what they are.

‘We did not have enough of the virus samples so we will have to grow some more before we can come to a conclusive decision about its nature.’

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 10:41 PM on 15th November 2009