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Vitamin D deficiency is a commonly overlooked but widespread health issue. Moreover, lower levels of Vitamin D in the body have shown to be surprisingly linked with COVID-19 infection! This post aims to elaborate on this with studies conducted on the relationship between Vitamin D and COVID-19.
As per research conducted by JAMA Network, a correlation was found between a deficiency of Vitamin D and an increased risk of COVID-19. Another study corroborates these results - reporting that over 80% of COVID-19 patients showed less than adequate levels of Vitamin D in the blood.
As per the study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers noted that 82.2% of all the patients studied showed Vitamin D deficiency. Additionally, male patients were shown to have lower levels of Vitamin D as compared to female patients.
Patients who were deficient in Vitamin D also showed a higher risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases. On average, such patients also stayed in the hospital for a longer duration.
According to Dr Hans Konrad Biesalski, a professor at the University of Hohenheim; symptoms of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and other such comorbidities are associated with low levels of Vitamin D. Dr Biesalski has evaluated the relationship between vitamin D levels and the risk of COVID-19. In an interview with Healthline, he said, “It looks like patients with a poor vitamin D status may have more severe COVID-19.” However, this opinion is to be taken with a grain of salt due to a lack of proper evidence of the same.
While a correlation has been found between the level of Vitamin D in the body and the risk of COVID-19 infection, a number of researchers are also looking at ways in which Vitamin D can help protect people or help patients recover from the illness faster.
Dr José L. Hernández, PhD, who is a co-author of the study, noted that identifying and treating vitamin D deficiency, in patients at higher risk of COVID-19 such as elderly people, patients with other comorbidities, and residents of nursing homes, can help improve their immunity and protect them from the virus.
According to prior research, many people the world over have a vitamin D deficiency. This makes it a global problem.
This report raises a few common questions, such as, "Should we have our Vitamin D levels checked?", "Is taking a Vitamin D supplement enough protection from COVID-19?", or, "Does taking a Vitamin D supplement at least reduce the risk of getting COVID-19?"
Dr Michael F. Holick, head of the Bone Health Care Clinic at Boston University, has done extensive research on Vitamin D in the body. He says that the Endocrine Society Practice Guidelines don’t recommend Vitamin D screening for everybody. According to Dr Holick, it is best to keep track of Vitamin D levels in people with "fat malabsorption syndrome", people with obesity, or people facing other underlying health issues.
As per The Endocrine Society's recommendations, infants should receive between 400–1,000 International Units (IUs) daily, children between 600–1,000 IUs daily, and adults between 600–2,000 IUs daily. The amount required is dependent on the individual's current Vitamin D levels. However, obese adults may need 2-3 times more than the average adult, Dr Holick said.
Additional supplementation may help if the Vitamin D levels are low, according to Dr Biesalski.
As per Dr Holick, various reports have noted that Vitamin D deficiency is related to a higher risk for infections of the upper respiratory tract such as influenza (flu) and COVID-19. Dr Holick's team conducted a study on over 191,000 COVID-19-positive people, which showed that Vitamin D deficiency raised the risk of being infected by 54.5%.
In a similar study, Dr Holick noted that COVID-19 patients having adequate levels of Vitamin D had a 51.5% lower mortality rate and saw a significantly lowered risk of complications arising from the infection.
Based on the reports and his own studies, Dr Holick recommends that children and adults receive a sufficient amount of Vitamin D, as per the recommendations of the Endocrine Society. This can help lower the risk of being infected by the virus and its various strains, as well as lowering the risk of complications and mortality in the case of COVID-19 infection in children and adults. A comprehensive health benefits program can help organisations protect their employees from infection as well.
Studies from various sources have reported evidence that receiving sufficient Vitamin D helps regulate the body's immune system for better health. While more research is required in confirming whether high levels of Vitamin D help reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, it is always a good idea to get some Sun exposure and raise the levels of Vitamin D to adequate levels in our bodies.
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