HEAL London

Health Education and AIDS Liaison - a more intelligent approach

The Neglected Significance of Vitamin D and Immunosuppression

Over the past decade vitamin D has gained increasing attention for its probable ability to prevent or treat a number of illnesses. Technically, it is more of a hormone than a vitamin and sunlight (specifically UVB radiation) exposure on the skin is how we mainly acquire it.

Some scientists have produced studies that show that HIV/AIDS is yet another illness that may be tamed by this. However, the actions of vitamin D do not explicitly support the prevailing paradigm. In short, vitamin D can help to bolster the reasons why HIV cannot be the exclusive cause of AIDS, or even at all.

At a basic level vitamin D acts as both the body's most potent immunostimulant and immunosuppressant. It goes without saying that anything that stimulates the immune system is positive, however, immunosuppression has its uses too. For example, immunosuppression is desirable when we want to stop donated organs from being rejected or to prevent other autoimmune responses that are harmful to the body, such as seen in multiple sclerosis.
Because vitamin D does both things it can be seen as a dual immunomodulator, meaning that it acts like a thermostat in that it decides where and when to evoke specific immune behaviour. For this reason if someone is vitamin D deficient, they are by extension immune deficient, and as this can be acquired by lack of sun exposure and supplementation, it is at the very least another cause of acquired immune deficiency than 'HIV' - and its outcomes can match a number of AIDS defining conditions, such as TB.

One thing that may be used in defence of the prevailing hypothesis is that vitamin D does help the body produce its own antibiotic (cathelicidin), which could explain its effect on any virus including HIV, if it exists. However, vitamin D has not been demonstrated to rid this virus in the infected, and oddly the efficacy of this would probably be demonstrated by a person losing their HIV+ status which tells that a person has antibodies, but not specifically a virus.

The way in which vitamin D could support AIDS rethinking is quite simple. First of all we need to remember the consistent risk groups for HIV/AIDS, and that is those living in poverty, intravenous drug abusers, those who frequently engage in the receiving end of anal sex and haemophiliacs.

If someone has poor access to good food or clean water they will automatically be immune deficient by this fact alone. However, lack of food also hinders vitamin D's ability. Vitamin D particularly requires calcium and magnesium in order for its job to be effective and these are usually abundant in most first world diets. Drug addicts are shown to have reduced cholesterol levels and cholesterol is needed in order for vitamin D to be produced in the skin; furthermore, this group can share another trait with recipients of frequent rough anal sex which is damage to the gut. A gut which is damaged will compromise the immune system because the most abundant vitamin D receptors (VDR) are to be found here where they also help to fend off bad bacteria. In this case, such people are vitamin D insensitive to some degree as well as deficient which might explain why they sometimes suffer diseases that are less common to the general population and that are more harder to treat. Haemophiliacs also have a tendency to show signs of bone disorders despite acceptable calcium intake which suggests a disorder of their vitamin D systems.

The reason why such people test HIV+ then – if we accept for a second that HIV tests can sometimes be reliable enough to diagnose 'an' illness in absence of any other visible cause – is because when a body is vitamin D deficient or insensitive, the body will invoke its backup plan: adaptive, antibody-mediated immunity. If you cannot fight infections at an innate (non-antibody level), you will produce antibodies; and the worse your vitamin D system is, the more reliance there will be on antibody production. With vitamin D the intruder is dealt with before they enter the house. Anecdotally, and observed in myself, high dose vitamin D consumers experience little to no colds and flu.

Regardless of your HIV status, 'assumed or confirmed', everyone should take vitamin D. Ideal dosing appears to be between 5-10,000 units daily to reach an ideal blood level between 50-80 ng/mL (125-200 nmol/L in the UK), which is in direct contrast to the mere 400 units recommended since time immemorial and which is only enough to deal with rickets. The form of vitamin D best advised is called vitamin D3. The core benefit of D3 is that not only is it cheaper than plant based D2, it is the form familiar to humans and produces the best results with little or no toxicity.

I am currently writing a book about vitamin D which discusses vitamin D and AIDS rethinking in detail amongst many other things, which I aim to release early next year. If you want to get updates on this please visit my site at www.prescsun.com.

To surmise, vitamin D is not the magic bullet for all symptomatic or eventually symptomatic HIV 'infected' as it is one consideration amongst a few, and neither does it clearly prove that it can restrain HIV produced AIDS because vitamin D deficiency is a type of AIDS itself, as insidious as the former because vitamin D deficiency enhances the likelihood of eventual illness but does not guarantee it; genes and external threats play an additional part here.

I must state that though I feel highly knowledgeable about vitamin D (I am no doctor), my opinions do not appear to be shared with other vitamin D advocates and for that reason the ideas written here can almost certainly be 'blamed' on me alone.



Editor's Note:

Not long after Mohammed Aziz's article was received and just before I got round to putting it live, a news item on AIDSmeds.com confirmed Mohammed's expectations of Vitamin D having a statistically-significant correlation in people diagnosed HIV+. While bearing in mind the distorting lens through which AIDSmeds.com looks at the whole issue of HIV diagnoses and AIDS, they still reported some interesting findings. In particular it noted that of people diagnosed HIV+, lower vitamin D levels were correlated more with illness and death, and they also commented that multiple studies have found that a relatively high proportion of people diagnosed HIV+ have significantly low vitamin D levels.

In the context of Mohammed's enlightening discussion this becomes significant. If low vitamin D levels can, as well as resulting in genuine reduced immunity, correspondingly result in an increase in antibody level response, then that alone may be why many otherwise-healthy people may trigger positive HIV diagnoses. The report also mentioned it was discovered that black people are much more likely to have lower vitamin D levels, and that sunlight is a major source of vitamin D. It has been noted for years that black people in more northern climates need to top up their vitamin D levels because they weren't getting enough from sunlight alone. In more recent years with the paranoia over skin cancer there has been a trend to ensure people are smothered with Sun Protection Factor 5000, so it's not surprising that more recently still a warning was issued about widespread vitamin D deficiency in the UK. Even black people have tended to be caught up in this, despite already being lacking in vitamin D on average. Therefore it should be no suprise that black people are suffering even more from low vitamin D levels. This may also may be a contributory to the fact that everywhere black people have a much higher proportion of people diagnosed HIV+ than other racial groups.

Interestingly, the article on AIDSmeds.com, while acknowledging the importance of the findings of this and previous studies, reports that, "These results provide strong evidence that vitamin D deficiency is an important cofactor in HIV disease progression, even in the setting of widespread, efficient [ARV therapy],". So despite Anthony Fauci denying that co-factors had any role in AIDS in the film 'House of Numbers', even the orthodoxy is gradually acknowledging the role of co-factors in 'disease progression'. Well, they call them co-factors, whereas of course they may really be just THE factors.

They key thing about vitamin D deficiency though is that it's probably one of the easiest things to remedy if you know that's what's missing. The problem that we've discovered with AIDS doctors in the UK is that they will often simply refuse to measure some of the most useful parameters that indicate the state of the body and what can usefully be done to rectify problems. For example, glutathione is the body's key antioxidant and is more highly correlated with illness and future disease progression than an HIV diagnosis, and therefore one might reasonably expect that doctors would pay close attention to it. But no. In my experience of visiting with patients I have seen doctors refuse point blank to measure gluathione levels. The question then is whether or not any doctors will be prepared to measure vitamin D levels. Don't hold your breath.

Mike Hersee