Vitamin D3 gel capsules, raise vitamin D

Grandmothers in Scandinavia have been forcing children to swallow cod liver oil for hundreds of years. They knew it acted as a tonic in the winter to keep colds and other upper respiratory tract infections away. A meta-analysis published in the BMJ (Feb. 15, 2017) confirms that the old wives were right: The answer to the question is vitamin D good for colds is yes.

Many Physicians Pooh-Pooh Vitamins:

Many health professionals believe that people should not take vitamins. A few years ago an editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Dec. 17, 2013) stated this message in words no one could misunderstand:

Enough is Enough:

Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.”

Many doctors take that advice to heart. They tell their patients to skip nutritional supplements and just eat a well balanced diet, whatever the heck that means. At the same time Americans are told to skip vitamins, they are told by their dermatologists to slather on the sunscreen to prevent sun damage. Sunscreen blocks the body’s ability to make vitamin D in the skin.

Vitamin D Deficiency is Common:

The result is that massive numbers of U.S. citizens are low in this crucial hormone. According to the CDC Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition, nearly 70 million people are below optimal levels (under 20 ng/mL). Over 20 million Americans are deficient in Vitamin D (below 12 ng/mL).

Vitamin D and Immunity:

Ask a room full of senior citizens if they remember getting a spoonful of cod liver oil in the winter time when they were children and a bunch of hands will shoot up. That is almost always accompanied by a grimace. That’s because people remember the awful taste of that cod liver oil.

Why did mothers dose up their kids with such foul-tasting stuff for six months of the year? They could not tell you how it worked, but experience taught them that it did. Over the last decade or two a number of studies have suggested that at least one of the ingredients in cod liver oil probably boosted immunity and reduced the likelihood of getting sick. The most likely factor: vitamin D.

Is Vitamin D Good for Colds?

The study in the BMJ set out to “assess the overall effect of vitamin D supplementation on risk of acute respiratory tract infection, and to identify factors modifying this effect.” The authors analyzed 25 randomized controlled trials involving over 11,000 subjects “aged 0 to 95 years.”

The Conclusions:

“Vitamin D supplementation was safe and it protected against acute respiratory tract infection overall. Patients who were very vitamin D deficient and those not receiving bolus doses experienced the most benefit.”

What’s a “Bolus” Dose?

When doctors refer to the administration of a “bolus” dose they usually mean a big dose all at once. An example would be an intravenous injection of a medication at a fairly rapid rate. It is a way of getting a large amount of medicine into a patient quickly, especially during an emergency. But a bolus dose is not always injected. Sometimes doctors prescribe large doses of oral medication.

For reasons that confuse us, some doctors like to prescribe a large dose of vitamin D weekly or monthly instead of daily. For example, a number of studies report on protocols involving 100,000 IUs (international units) of vitamin D2 taken orally every three months. Other trials have used single doses of 300,000 to 500,000 IUs.

No grandmother in Sweden or Norway would have considered such a whopping dose sensible. They intuitively realized that small daily doses were more physiologic.

Is Vitamin D Effective?

Many people ask us: is vitamin D good for colds? Until now we had to be cautious in our answer. That’s because the results of various studies have been equivocal. Meta-analyses of 15 clinical trials have come to conflicting conclusions. Two such reviews responded favorably to the question is vitamin D good for colds and three replied negatively to that question. The new analysis drilled deeper for an answer we think is more robust.

The authors wanted to know why there was such variability in the conclusions of different vitamin D studies. They analyzed baseline vitamin D status, dosing frequency, other conditions (asthma, COPD), vaccine status, etc. What they found was that using daily or weekly vitamin D dosing:

“revealed a protective effect against acute respiratory tract infection. No such protective effect was seen among participants in trials where at least one bolus dose of vitamin D was administered.”

In other words, taking a large oral dose of vitamin D once a month or once every three months was ineffective at warding off colds or flu. The researchers dug even deeper. They wanted what they described as a “cleaner” look at the data. They found that people who had very low levels of vitamin D at the beginning of the trial experienced “an even greater degree of protection against acute respiratory infection.”

The Bottom Line in Answering the Q: “Is Vitamin D Good for Colds?

The authors conclude:

“Our study reports a major new indication for vitamin D supplementation: the prevention of acute respiratory tract infection. We also show that people who are very deficient in vitamin D and those receiving daily or weekly supplementation without additional bolus doses experienced particular benefit.”

Many health professionals will likely find fault with the latest meta analysis. The idea that the old wives might have been right makes some physicians uncomfortable. An editorial that accompanied the BMJ research article was titled: “Do Vitamin D Supplements Help Prevent Respiratory Tract Infections?”

The authors were not enthusiastic:

“Should these results change clinical practice? Probably not. The results are heterogeneous and not sufficiently applicable to the general population. We think that they should be viewed as hypothesis generating only, requiring confirmation in well designed adequately powered randomised controlled trials…We consider that current evidence does not support the use of vitamin D supplementation to prevent disease, except for those at high risk of osteomalacia [weakened bones], currently defined as 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels less than 25 nmol/L.”

Despite this conclusion, we think that vitamin D supplementation, especially in the winter, makes sense for a lot of people. Anyone with dark skin is at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. People who stay out of the sun or slather on the sunscreen will also be vulnerable. And those who live in northern states where sun is at a premium for many months of the year will also be at risk of low vitamin D levels. The authors of the Vitamin D study concluded that: “Use of vitamin D did not influence risk of serious adverse events of any cause or death due to any cause.” In other words, vitamin D was safe.

Want to Learn More?

Our Guide to vitamin D Deficiency will provide you an in-depth understanding of this crucial nutrient. Learn about symptoms of low vitamin D levels. Find out what the blood tests reveal and how much vitamin D is appropriate. Which forms of vitamin D are best? Here is a link to all our guides.

Join Over 120,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Dan
    New York
    Reply

    That “Bolus” dose you mentioned, shouldn’t that be called a Bogus dose? As far as I know the body can only absorb smaller amounts of supplements. You are only making expensive urine as the body will eliminate the excess that cannot be absorbed at one time.

  2. Cheri Collins
    Reply

    I live in San Francisco, CA, where no amount of sun exposure during a number of months of the year is going to give me enough vitamin D. One’s location on the planet is essential to consider. And, how much clothing do you wear, or not? When articles talk about the amount of sun exposure one needs to make enough vitamin D, most don’t realize they’re talking about 1. if you were at the equator and 2. if you were wearing only a bikini bathing suit.
    My rheumatologist was the one who suggested checking my my D blood level. It was low, too low. I started taking 2,000 IU / day and she checked it every 3 months until I got up to a good level. Which takes 6,000 IU / day for me to maintain. Everyone needs a blood level check to know whether or not they need to take this hormone.
    It is not a “vitamin,” as we have called it for so long. It’s a hormone and has many different actions in different parts of the body.

  3. Dennis
    Pa
    Reply

    I think the medical industry wants to keep ill, to make us dependent, and keep raking in the money.

  4. Margaret
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Reply

    This year was the first in a long time that I did not gjet a flu shot, and even though I have been exposed several times, I have not come down with the flu. I know the season is not over yet, but I also did not end up with my usual bronchial infection in December. Perhaps it is because last summer I started taking a multivitamin daily, along with 3000 extra units of Vitamin D every day.

  5. Manoj
    Dallas TX
    Reply

    An over dosing of vitamins and minerals may be harmful for people who do not need them, but many are definitely deficient in some critical nutrients. They should consider supplementing with them!

  6. John
    Wisconsin
    Reply

    Five years ago I began taking vitamin D3 after I suspected and then learned via the 25 hydroxy vitamin D test that I was deficient. Prior to taking vitamin D3 on a daily basis I typically had three lengthy upper respiratory infection colds per year. The last two years I have not had a cold, other than starting to feel like I was getting a cold, but symptoms disappear typically within 24 hours and are very mild. To achieve the “optimal” level of vitamin D3 circulating in my blood, I need to take 4,000 international units of vitamin D3. Your mileage may vary.

  7. TERRY
    Reply

    DOES TAKING VITAMIN D HELP WITH JOINT PAIN, BLOOD PRESSURE, ETC. IT IS SUPPOSEDLY THE NEW WONDER VITAMIN, AND I AM READING LATELY OF ALL ITS BENEFITS. MY DR. HAS PRESCRIBED 2000 UNITS A DAY. THANKS

  8. Hanna
    Florida
    Reply

    My latest terrible side effect of glaucoma eye drops push me to look for different option. Lumigan plus Combigen sent me to emergency room. My eye duct is always bloked by some debris and brings up the pressure. Is there anything that helps glaucoma patiens? HELP!!#

  9. Howard N
    FL
    Reply

    I’m a believer! I used to get the flu every few years and at least 2 or 3 colds a year, but have not had one illness in nearly three years after getting my vitamin D3 blood level above 80 ng/mL. And a good quality brand of vitamin D3 is one of the least expensive vitamins available.

    Many doctors tell people to cut back on their vitamin D supplement if their level is over 60 ng/mL, but a level between 60 and 100 ng/mL is where the most important health benefits are achieved! Sadly, a lower D3 level provides more income for doctors (and pharmaceutical companies), so don’t expect them to give you the best advice about this for your health–doctors are now educated by the pharmaceutical companies, so they are not reading the many studies on natural treatments that the People’s Pharmacy is reading and sharing with us!

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.