Vitamin D and COVID-19

by Carol J. Bova

Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a higher  likelihood of contracting the coronavirus. In combination with other Vitamin D research, the results may point the way to a quick and inexpensive way to reduce COVID-19 deaths among African-Americans and Hispanics.

David Meltzer, MD, Ph.D, lead author of the article published September 3rd in JAMA Network Open, discussed their findings on a University of Chicago Medicine website. “Vitamin D is important to the function of the immune system and vitamin D supplements have previously been shown to lower the risk of viral respiratory tract infections. Our statistical analysis suggests this may be true for the COVID-19 infection.”

Another study from Spain, published August 29, had test and control groups well-matched for age, sex, comorbidities and clinical indications of COVID-19 severity. In the control group, 50% were admitted to ICU and two died. In addition to the same drugs given to the control group, the test group was given calcifediol, a vitamin D analog, which increases vitamin D levels in the body. The test group had no deaths and only 2% had to be admitted to the ICU.

A study at Trinity College Dublin published in the Irish Medical Journal in May suggested vitamin D deficiency may be linked to higher COVID-19 mortality rates. This study found that Northern Italy and Spain, which had among the highest COVID-19 infection rates in Europe, had high rates of vitamin D deficiency. Norway, Finland and Sweden, which have higher fortification of foods, had lower infection rates and deaths. The authors suggest that because “Vitamin D is important in regulation and suppression of the inflammatory cytokine response which causes the severe consequences of COVID-19 and acute respiratory distress syndrome.”

While further studies are needed, and already underway, these findings may provide an inexpensive way to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 or developing severe complications in those who are infected — especially among minorities.

Two previous studies about vitamin D in minority populations may add additional insight into  COVID-19.

In 2015, a study published in Public Health Nutrition concluded wintertime vitamin D insufficiency is pervasive among minority populations, and not uncommon among non-Hispanic whites.  A 2014 study in Hispanic Health Care International found “the highest prevalence of low vitamin D levels are among Hispanics and non-Hispanic Blacks,” which may contribute to increased risk of diabetes and its complications.

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19 responses to “Vitamin D and COVID-19

  1. Doubled my daily supplement way back in March, and never pass up a chance to get some rays. Got this advice way back first from Bacon (see below), but it is good to see it confirmed.

  2. Well, whaddyaknow. Medicinal ice cream day is a thing.

  3. A couple years ago, my doctor told me tests showed I had a vitamin D deficiency. He prescribed over-the-counter vitamin D and last month, I was told my count was good. Simple solution. Educate the public.

  4. Sunlight synthesizes Vitamin D in the skin. In tropical climes, humans developed dark pigmentation with melanin to protect against the harmful effects of sun (cancer), and there was so much sunlight that Vitamin D synthesis was not a problem.

    When humans migrated to northern climes, excess exposure to the sun was far less of a problem, but Vitamin D deficiency became a problem. So humans evolved lighter skin to enable Vitamin D synthesis. What’s happened in the past few centuries is that large numbers of dark-skinned people have migrated to temperate/northern climes (involuntarily in the case of enslaved people). Dark-skinned people can’t synthesize Vitamin D as easily, therefore more of them suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Of course, light-skinned people suffer from deficiency too, but that’s because humans spend so much time indoors and out of the sun.

    There is a link between Vitamin D deficiency and depression, and Vitamin D and immunological vigor. There may be other sunlight-health effects of which we are not yet aware.

    That’s a long way of saying that I think Carol is on to something. If we want to combat COVID-19, we should be addressing Vitamin D deficiencies, especially among dark-skinned people.

    • The big push for vitamin D supplements is one of the bigger medical/nutrition scams. People just need to get outdoors for about 30 minutes several days a week, preferably around lunchtime. Dark-skinned people would need a little more exposure to the sun.

      • Would that were true, but it’s not. D is the one supplement that is widely recommended. Most of the others are unnecessary with a good diet, but D often needs a boost.

      • Unfortunately, Dick, it’s not that easy.
        When you use sunblock to prevent skin cancer, you also block synthesis of Vitamin D . Medications to reduce cholesterol can interfere with production. Others create photosensitivity resulting in sunburn from even moderate unprotected exposure to the sun. Autoimmune conditions caused by genetic factors also inhibit vitamin D synthesis. Aging is the major factor though. There’s a lot more info, but if you read the quotes below, you’ll have a quick sample of available studies.

        “…impaired vitamin D signaling and/or inadequate vitamin D intake caused by genetic predisposition (e.g. VDR polymorphisms) and/or environmental factors (e.g. insufficient sunlight exposure in high-latitude regions or during the cold season) may contribute to the onset and progression of autoimmunity.”

        “Aging reduces vitamin D production in skin. There is a decrease in the concentration of 7-dehydrocholesterol in the epidermis in old compared with young individuals and a reduced response to UV light, resulting in a 50% decrease in the formation of previtamin D3.”

        “In recent years, following the discovery of vitamin D receptors throughout the body, its role in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases has become an important area of study. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to various health problems, including cognitive decline, depression, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer [36, 39]. As persons age, the risk for vitamin D deficiency significantly increases. The percent of older adults suffering from vitamin D deficiency ranges from 20 to 100% in the United States (US)[37]”

        “As previous studies indicate, significant differences in vitamin D levels were seen in non-Hispanic African-Americans and Mexican-Americans as compared to other races. Non-Hispanic African-Americans composed a significant 39.3% of the vitamin D deficient population, compared to only 16.5% of the vitamin D sufficient population (p-value <0.0001). To a lesser extent, significant differences were also seen in Mexican-Americans (Table ​(Table33)."

  5. Baconator with extra cheese

    And they would preferably use that 30 minutes outside to take a brisk walk instead of eating at McDonalds. Get sun, get your lungs healthy, and drop about 30 lbs…. the best defense against the ‘Rona, depression, diabetes, and heart disease…. all the top killers.
    If you go into the winter fat, pale, and out of cardiovascular shape you are not playing the odds.

  6. Humm curious, like the Spanish Flu pandemic they had wards outside to get the patients into sunlight and fresh air. Who would’ve thunk it.

  7. India reported almost 75,000 new cases today. One journal article in 2014 discussed the need for vitamin D fortification of food. This one, from 2019, “Micronutrient deficiencies are steadily adding to the increasing burden of health related co-morbidities with low dietary calcium and magnesium intake in Indian population. Despite lots of sunshine, vitamin D insufficiency is widespread in India according to the age and regions (50-90%). In order to increase vitamin D intake with normal diet, the food industry will have to find a more effective strategy to improve general health conditions.”

    Not proof, but a strong indicator of a connection to COVID..

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