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Vitamin D may help fight off COVID-19, study finds

Vitamin D may help fight off COVID-19, study finds

A study led by Northwestern University has identified a strong link between COVID-19 mortality rates and severe vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D may help fight off COVID-19, study finds

Gathering data from hospitals and clinics around the globe, including China, Italy, Spain, Germany, US and UK, researchers noted that patients from countries where COVID-19 mortality rates are higher, had lower levels of vitamin D. These countries included Italy, Spain and the UK.

The scientists were interested in examining vitamin D levels after noticing unexplained differences in COVID-19 mortality rates between different countries.

While some have linked this to healthcare quality, age distributions, testing rates or strains of the virus, the researchers felt the differences needed to be explored further.

“None of these factors appears to play a significant role,” said Northwestern’s Vadim Backman, who led the research.

“The healthcare system in northern Italy is one of the best in the world. Differences in mortality exist even if one looks across the same age group. And, while the restrictions on testing do indeed vary, the disparities in mortality still exist even when we looked at countries or populations for which similar testing rates apply.

“Instead, we saw a significant correlation with vitamin D deficiency,” he said.

The correlation the researchers found was between vitamin D levels and cytokine storm, a hyperinflammatory condition caused by an overactive immune system. In addition, they saw a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and mortality.

Cytokine storm, they explain, severely damages the lungs and can lead to respiratory issues and death in patients.

Researchers caution that this does not mean people without a known vitamin D deficiency should start hoarding supplements.

They conclude that healthy levels of vitamin D could protect patients against severe complications and death from COVID-19.

“Our analysis shows that it might be as high as cutting the mortality rate in half,” Backman said. “It will not prevent a patient from contracting the virus, but it may reduce complications and prevent death in those who are infected.”

“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,” said Backman.

He notes that people should not take excessive doses of vitamin D, as there are negative side effects.

Backman says this needs further study and hopes the research will stimulate interest in this area. “The data also may illuminate the mechanism of mortality, which, if proven, could lead to new therapeutic targets.”

 

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