Over the past several months the CDC has created a list of health conditions that increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.1 These include Type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, serious heart conditions and chronic kidney disease.
To reduce your risk, it would make sense to address the health issues that raise it. But some are not easily or quickly changed. However, you can make a significant difference by making one change to your daily routine: optimizing your vitamin D level.
Getting the right amount of Vitamin D is likely a beneficial strategy that is the easiest and least expensive of most options in minimizing the risk of any infectious disease in the coming months, including COVID-19 and the flu.
Vitamin D deficiency affects men and women of all age groups and races,2,3,4 including areas of the world where there is abundant sunshine, such as in the Mediterranean.5 This is vital since vitamin D deficiency has been identified in numerous studies as a risk factor for COVID-19 and related complications,6 including severe disease7 and death.8
Vitamin D Level Predictive of Disease Severity
Dr. Grigorios Panagiotou, from Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals in the U.K., has released data from yet another study demonstrating people who required intensive care were more often deficient in vitamin D than those who were not admitted to the ITU (intensive therapy unit).9
The data were collected from a single center, and Panagiotou and his team analyzed the inpatient information from 134 patients who had a positive COVID-19 test; he also looked at each person’s serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level taken on admission to the hospital. The researchers were interested in the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in relationship to COVID-19 severity and mortality.10
While the mean vitamin D levels were comparable between those in the intensive care unit and those in the medical unit, only 19% of the patients in the intensive care had levels over 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL), compared to 39.1% of those in the medical unit. Essentially, they discovered that patients in the ITU were more likely to have a Vitamin D deficiency than those in the medical unit, even though they were younger.
Once patients were identified as having insufficient levels of vitamin D, they were immediately treated with Colecalciferol, a vitamin D supplement.11 The researchers theorize the lower mortality rates in their study may have been related to the rapid treatment for deficiency.12 Endocrine Today reports that the researchers wrote:13
“Vitamin D receptors are highly expressed in B- and T-lymphocytes, suggesting a role in modulating innate and adaptive immune responses. [Vitamin D] levels reach their nadir at the end of winter, and low levels are associated with increased risk of acute respiratory tract infections during winter [and are] mitigated by vitamin D supplementation.
Clinical trials involving vitamin D supplementation in COVID-19 are ongoing but may not report within the time frame of this pandemic.”
There are numerous other multinational studies with results that have demonstrated a strong association between vitamin D levels and disease severity. On the strength of that evidence, France, Scotland and the U.K. are taking supplementation and optimization of vitamin D seriously.14,15,16
Many of the past studies were observational and could not be used to make links to causation based on the design of the study. However, studies that can demonstrate causation are currently underway. For a discussion of the past, current and some of the planned studies, see “Vitamin D in the Prevention of COVID-19.”
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