COVID-19 and Vitamin D
People tend to look for a completely new, sometimes unrealistic, cure for the diseases that cause fear. This is so natural.
COVID-19 is one of those diseases. There were vaccines developed, drugs trialed, old drugs dug up in order to find an absolute cure. So, far, there is still not a single drug or vaccine there that could be called a single factor cure for COVID-19.
Vitamin D was one of the drugs, or rather, supplements that were attributed a magic power of defeating the COVID-19 pandemic. Is it true though?
There is no question that Vitamin D is an amazing biologically active substance that makes our bones strong, helps losing weight, prevents some cancers, battles depression and anxiety. But, does Vitamin D cure COVID-19?
Firstly, it is too early to say. The whole of the COVID-19 pandemic is just two years old. However, there are some studies that offered rather promising results about the role of Vitamin D in the management of COVID-19.
New research from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Edinburgh has examined the association between vitamin D and COVID-19 and found that ambient ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation (which is key for vitamin D production in the skin) at an individual’s place of residence in the weeks before COVID-19 infection, was strongly protective against severe disease and death. The paper was published in the journal Scientific Reports on September 14, 2021.
Previous studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with increased susceptibility to viral and bacterial respiratory infections. Similarly, several observational studies found a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19, but it could be that these effects are confounded and in fact a result of other factors, such as obesity, older age, or chronic illness which are also linked with low vitamin D.
Vitamin D can also support the immune system through a number of immune pathways involved in fighting SARS-CoV-2. Many recent studies confirm the pivotal role of vitamin D in viral infections.
This study shows that, counter-intuitively, countries at a lower latitude and typically sunny countries, such as Spain and Northern Italy, had low concentrations of vitamin D and high rates of vitamin D deficiency. These countries also experienced the highest infection and death rates in Europe.
The northern latitude countries of Norway, Finland, and Sweden, have higher vitamin D levels despite less UVB sunlight exposure because supplementation and fortification of foods are more common. These Nordic countries have lower COVID-19 infection and death rates. The correlation between low vitamin D levels and death from COVID-19 is statistically significant.
There are studies that resulted in the lack of any evidence of the correlation between Vitamin D and severity and susceptibility to COVID-19.
The take-home message is that it is better to err on a side of caution and do what is universally good for health. No matter what the next scientific study says about Vitamin D being a cure for COVID-19, there is no doubt, maintaining good levels of Vitamin D is universally beneficial. The journey to good levels of Vitamin D starts with testing.
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“Vitamin D and Inflammation: Potential Implications for Severity of Covid-19” by E. Laird, J. Rhodes and R.A. Kenny, 11 May 2020, Irish Medical Journal.
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