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COVID-19 and Vitamin D Deficiency: What’s the Connection?

An increasing number of studies are drawing a correlation between Covid-19 and a vitamin D deficiency, some of which suggest that people deficient in the vitamin constitute as much as 80% of coronavirus patients. What does this connection really mean? Will taking vitamin D supplements help lower your chances of catching Covid-19? Find the answer to these and other questions below.

What Does the Research Say?

Several studies have found a correlation between Covid-19 and low levels of vitamin D. It all started in 2017, years before the pandemic even began when one study published in the BMJ suggested that taking a vitamin D supplement could potentially be useful at preventing acute respiratory tract infections. The study looked at 11,000 participants and established that the vitamin is safe and effective at preventing respiratory infections in those deficient in the vitamin.
But why Vitamin D? It turns out that vitamin D is necessary for maintaining immune health and improving the body’s ability to fight off infectious disease. The lack of a Covid-19 vaccine and the need to find alternative preventative treatments during the Coronavirus pandemic urged researchers to look deeper into Vitamin D’s potential to prevent or decrease the severity of Covid-19 infections. 
Vitamin D and COVID-19 woman putting on a face mask

Subsequently, some researchers have observed that respiratory failure is more common in patients with vitamin D deficiency. These patients had a much higher mortality risk than patients with sufficient vitamin D levels. In September 2020, a large study that looked at data from COVID-19 test results and vitamin D level testing revealed that only 8.1% of 27,870 people with sufficient vitamin D levels had COVID-19 compared to 12.5% of positive results from 39,190 participants with low vitamin D levels. Furthermore, a study published recently in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that 82.2% of the Covid-19 patients were deficient in vitamin D. 

Lastly, a randomized study attempted to given a high dose of a type of vitamin D (calcifediol) to 50 people hospitalized with COVID-19. As a result, only 1 of the 50 patients required treatment in the intensive care unit. The control group consisted of 26 people and they didn’t take the vitamin D supplement. In contrast to those who took vitamin D, 13 control participants were transferred to the intensive care unit. However, there is also a similar study in which high doses of vitamin D were administered to severe coronavirus patients, and it didn’t find a quicker recovery or a change in mortality rates, so the effectiveness of vitamin D as a treatment of Covid-19 is still under question and requires further research.

To sum up, there is a number of studies suggesting that vitamin D deficiency may play a role in Covid-19 infection rates and the severity of the infection.

How Commons Are Vitamin D Deficiencies?

Vitamin D deficiencies are surprisingly common, with some research even suggesting that they are a serious global health concern that affects as many as 1 billion people worldwide. About 41% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, for example. Also known as the "sunshine vitamin", vitamin D is mostly produced in the skin from the sun, which makes it difficult to get in Northern latitudes, especially in the winter months. Those who spend a lot of time indoors can likewise have lower levels of vitamin D for the same reason - an inadequate exposure to the sun.

Vitamin D and COVID-19 vitamin D food sources
Food sources of vitamin D

Other populations susceptible to vitamin D deficiencies are seniors, as vitamin D production in the skin decreases with age. People with darker skin tones are also more likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiencies because melanin, a skin pigment more common in people of color, prevents some UVB rays from reaching the deeper layers of the skin.

It's no secret of these groups, as well as people who suffer from underlying conditions, who also tend to go outside and get less sun, have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, which only further supports the potential link between low vitamin D and the Coronavirus. To learn more about the symptoms of vitamin D deficiencies, read our previous article titled These Symptoms Could Mean You Are Lacking in Vitamin D.

Can a Vitamin D Supplement Help Prevent Covid-19?

At this time, researchers don't suggest taking vitamin D as a preventative treatment for Covid-19 to everyone, but those who are deficient should absolutely consider supplementation. “Vitamin D treatment should be recommended in COVID-19 patients with low levels of vitamin D circulating in the blood since this approach might have beneficial effects in both the musculoskeletal and the immune system,” stated José L. Hernández, Ph.D., the author of one of the studies we've mentioned above. If you're not sure if you get enough vitamin D, consider talking to your doctor about taking a blood test.

Lastly, it's important to point out Vitamin D plays a huge role in many processes in our body, no only immune health. It also helps keep our teeth and bones strong and healthy, for example, and keeps us full of energy and in a good mood. Therefore, getting enough of the vitamin is crucial, especially if you are more likely to suffer from a deficiency or know for a fact that you have a vitamin D deficiency. You can get some vitamin D from foods, such as eggs, fish, spinach, and dairy, but you can also consider taking a supplement to ensure you're getting enough vitamin D every day.

 

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