Vitamin D is important for every system in the body including immune function and bone health. It may also protect against a range of diseases and conditions, such as type 1 diabetes. It regulates insulin levels, supports lung health, and early in the pandemic, health officials encouraged the public to take vitamin D supplements to boost immune response and protect against covid.
Vitamin D deficiency is more widespread among Black Americans than others in the U.S. Having more melanin reduces the body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D from the sun, resulting in lower levels, according to the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Israeli scientists compared patients who had sufficient vitamin D to those who had a deficiency prior to contracting covid, and they found marked differences in the chances of getting seriously ill from covid-19.
“We found it remarkable, and striking, to see the difference in the chances of becoming a severe patient when you are lacking in vitamin D compared to when you’re not,” said Dr. Amiel Dror, a study author and physician at the Galilee Medical Center.
Researchers analyzed the records of 253 patients with positive covid-19 tests, who were admitted between April 2020 and February 2021 to the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, Israel.
Patients with vitamin D deficiency were 14 times more likely to have severe or critical cases of covid than those with sufficient vitamin D.
The mortality rate was high in patients who had vitamin D deficiency at 25.6 percent, compared to patients with sufficient vitamin D levels — 2.3 percent.
The differences remained after the researchers controlled for patient age, gender, and history of chronic diseases.
“This study contributes to a continually evolving body of evidence suggesting that a patient’s history of vitamin D deficiency is a predictive risk factor associated with poorer covid-19 clinical disease course and mortality,” said study co-author Michael Edelstein, a professor at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.
“It is still unclear why certain individuals suffer severe consequences of Covid-19 infections while others don’t. Our finding adds a new dimension to solving this puzzle,” he said
There was a question of whether the coronavirus caused the vitamin D deficiency in the first place.
Dr. Dror and colleagues analyzed the data among the Israeli patients to understand their vitamin D levels before covid-19 infection.
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“We checked a range of timeframes and found that wherever you look over the 2 years before infection, the correlation between vitamin D and disease severity is extremely strong,” Dror said.
There is no evidence that vitamin D supplements lower the risk of getting covid-19, however, it is important to be screened and check vitamin D levels if you are concerned, said Dr. Brian Hollenbeck, an infectious diseases specialist at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston.
Most vitamin D comes from direct sunlight on the skin. It is also found in foods such as fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks and in supplements.
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