Recently published research suggests vitamin D may help to protect individuals from developing severe symptoms of COVID-19 and can help to prevent COVID-19 deaths.
The research was conducted at Tehran University of Medical Sciences and Boston University Medical Center and found hospitalized patients with COVID-19 that had blood levels of 5-hydroxyvitamin D of at least 30 ng/mL had a significantly lower risk of unconsciousness, hypoxia, and death than patients with vitamin D deficiency. Patients with sufficient levels of vitamin D had higher blood lymphocyte levels and lower levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood than vitamin D deficient patients.
The study was conducted on 235 hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Patients older than 40 who had sufficient vitamin D levels were 51.5% less likely to die from COVID-19 than patients in the same age group who were vitamin D deficient.
“Only 9.7% of patients older than 40 years who were vitamin D sufficient succumbed to the infection compared to 20% who had a circulating level of 25(OH)D< 30 ng/mL,” explained the researchers. “After adjusting for confounding factors, there was a significant association between vitamin D sufficiency and reduction in clinical severity, inpatient mortality serum levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), and an increase in lymphocyte percentage.”
Vitamin D has been previously shown to have immunomodulatory activity and helps to modulate both the innate and acquired immune systems in response to viral and bacterial pathogens. Vitamin D is also known to modulate the renin-angiotensin pathway and downregulates ACE2. The researchers suggest that vitamin D can help to reduce the risk of a cytokine storm and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ACDS), which are the main causes of mortality in COVID-19 patients.
This is not the first study to be published that suggests vitamin D has a protective effect against COVID-19. Previous research conducted by Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics and molecular medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, and corresponding author of the study, showed that having sufficient levels of vitamin D reduced the risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 by 54%. Holick’s research also suggests Vitamin D could also have a protective effect against other coronaviruses and influenza. Ensuring sufficient levels of vitamin D is therefore especially important during the winter months when there is an increased risk of complications from these infections, especially in the northern hemisphere where more people are vitamin D deficient during the winter months.
The research suggests that increasing vitamin D levels in the population could help to reduce mortality rates. What the researchers do not know is how high blood levels of vitamin D need to be to have the optimum protective effect, but achieving a blood level of 25(OH)D of at least 30/mL – the level suggested by the Endocrine Society – should be recommended.
“Because vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is so widespread in children and adults in the United States and worldwide, especially in the winter months, it is prudent for everyone to take a vitamin D supplement to reduce the risk of being infected and having complications from COVID-19,” said Holick.
You can read more about the study in the paper – Vitamin D sufficiency, a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D at least 30 ng/mL reduced risk for adverse clinical outcomes in patients with COVID-19 infection – which was recently published in the journal PLOS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239799