After the coronavirus pandemic first reached the U.S., stories emerged of people spending time in the sun, soaking up vitamin D in the hope that it might protect them from the worst of COVID-19.
Turns out such strategies are not as far-fetched as they might have sounded at the time.
A pair of recent studies suggest that a lack of vitamin D might put you at greater risk for a poor outcome after infection with the new coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
Patients who have a severe vitamin D deficiency are twice as likely to have severe complications — or even to die — after being infected with the virus, according to researchers at Northwestern University.
The researchers looked at data from hospitals and clinics in 10 countries: China, France, Germany, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
Patients from countries with high COVID-19 mortality rates — including Italy, Spain and the U.K. — had lower overall levels of vitamin D compared to patients in nations that fared better.
Northwestern researcher Vadim Backman cautions that the findings require further study, and noted that people should accept them in that spirit:
“While I think it is important for people to know that vitamin D deficiency might play a role in mortality, we don’t need to push vitamin D on everybody.”
A more recent study out of the University of Chicago Medicine appears to add additional support for the theory that vitamin D may offer protection from the coronavirus.
In the second study, researchers discovered that patients who had untreated vitamin D deficiency were almost twice as likely to test positive for COVID-19 when compared to patients who had healthy levels of the vitamin.
Dr. David Meltzer, lead author of the study, said:
“Vitamin D is important to the function of the immune system and vitamin D supplements have previously been shown to lower the risk of viral respiratory tract infections. Our statistical analysis suggests this may be true for the COVID-19 infection.”
The University of Chicago Medicine notes that half of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. Rates are higher among Black and Hispanic Americans and among those who live in northern climes where it’s hard to get enough sun exposure in the winter.
For more on staying healthy amid the pandemic, check out:
- “Is This Why Some People Have Milder Coronavirus Symptoms?“
- “Why ‘Social Distancing’ Might Not Protect You From the Coronavirus“
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