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Vitamin D and COVID-19: A Round-Up of the Latest Research

Vitamin D and COVID-19: A Round-Up of the Latest Research

As research gathers apace on COVID-19, here’s a quick summary of the latest research on vitamin D and the novel coronavirus to keep you fully up to speed with the latest developments.

The Possible Role of Vitamin D in Suppressing Cytokine Storm an Associated Mortality in COVID-19 Patients
– Daneshkhah A, Agrawal V, Eshein A et al. April 30, 2020

Initial analysis of patient data from 10 countries showed that patients with severe vitamin D deficiency are twice as likely to experience major complications with COVID-19. Led by Northwestern University, the researchers discovered a strong correlation between vitamin D levels and cytokine storm, a hyper-inflammatory condition that can severely damage lungs and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in patients. The researchers concluded that the fundamental role vitamin D plays in preventing the immune system from becoming dangerously overactive may prove to be key, as cytokine storm is “what seems to kill a majority of COVID-19 patients, not the destruction of the lungs by the virus itself. It is the complications from the misdirected fire from the immune system”.

Association between vitamin D levels and mortality from COVID-19
– Laird E & Kenny RA. Irish Medical Journal May 2020 Vol 11 No 5

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin, the University of Liverpool and the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) examined the association between vitamin D levels and COVID-19 mortality rates. In this analysis of more than 20 years’ worth of European data on vitamin D, a statistically significant link was shown between the highest infection and death rates of COVID-19 and populations with low vitamin D concentrations, including Spain and Italy. The northern latitude countries of Norway, Finland and Denmark which have recorded comparatively lower Covid-19 infection and death rates, have higher vitamin D levels despite less sunlight exposure, because supplementation and fortification of foods is more common, they noted.

Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths.
- Grant WB, Lahore H, McDonnell SL et al. Nutrients 2020 Apr 2;12(4)

A review of the roles of vitamin D in reducing the risk of respiratory tract infections, knowledge about the epidemiology of influenza and COVID-19, and how vitamin D supplementation might be a useful measure to reduce risk. The researchers recommend that people at risk of influenza and/or COVID-19 consider taking 10,000 IU/d of vitamin D3 for a few weeks to rapidly raise 25(OH)D concentrations, followed by 5000 IU/d; the goal being to raise 25(OH)D concentrations above 40-60ng/mL (100-150 nmol/L).

The role of vitamin D in the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 infection and mortality.
- Ilie PC, Stefanescu S, Smith L. Aging Clin Exp Res 2020 May 6.

Negative correlations between mean levels of vitamin D across 20 European countries and the number of COVID-19 cases (per million) and mortality rates (per million) were observed. The researchers noted that Vitamin D levels are severely low in the most vulnerable to COVID-19 – ie., the aging population – especially in Spain, Italy and Switzerland. A further study into vitamin D levels in COVID-19 patients with different degrees of disease severity was advised.

Considerations for obesity, vitamin D, and physical activity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Carter SJ, Baranauskas MN, Fly AD. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2020 Apr 16.

A consideration of the link between diminished immune function and individuals with obesity, and how this raises important questions about the possibility for greater viral pathogenicity in this population. The authors note that low vitamin D may add to the complications in this population. They caution against pinning all hopes on a “silver bullet” treatment approach and recommend that the contribution of modifiable lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity not be ignored.

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