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When you think of vitamin D, what comes to mind? Most likely bone health.
But hopefully, you’ve been reading about how the “sunshine vitamin” has come to the forefront during the pandemic as an important contributor to strengthening immune defense.
In fact, an international group of scientists knew in the beginning that vitamin D could be a valuable tool for minimizing not only the risk of infection — but also the severity and outcome. They felt so strongly about this that they sent an open letter to their governments urging them to advise citizens to get more vitamin D.
Since then, further research is not only confirming the association between COVID-19 and vitamin D but that the amount of exposure to sunlight and healthy vitamin D levels weeks before infection offered major protection…
Vitamin D prior to infection makes a huge difference
Researchers at Trinity College Dublin and the University of Edinburgh have found that, in people who developed a COVID-19 infection, the amount of sunlight they were exposed to in the weeks leading up to their infection made the difference between just being ill or experiencing severe disease or death.
Over half a million individuals took part in the study showing that ambient UVB radiation (radiation available from sunlight) near each person’s home prior to infection was strongly and inversely correlated with hospitalization and death.
In other words, the more UVB radiation they were exposed to, the better their outcome if infected with COVID-19.
Also, the researchers used something called Mendelian Randomization to look at whether a person’s genetically predicted levels of vitamin D were also associated with the severity of COVID-19 infections.
They found that UVB exposure and the vitamin D it produces was a far stronger predictor of severity of infection. Three times stronger, to be exact.
According to senior researcher, Professor Lina Zgaga, “Our study adds further evidence that vitamin D might protect against severe COVID-19 infection. Conducting a properly designed COVID-19 randomized controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation is critical. Until then, given that vitamin D supplements are safe and cheap, it is definitely advisable to take supplements and protect against vitamin D deficiency, particularly with winter on the horizon.”
2nd study mirrors importance of vitamin D levels
A study performed by researchers from the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University in Safed, Israel and the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, Israel has also shown a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 severity and mortality
The records of 1,176 patients admitted between April 2020 and February 2021 to the Galilee Medical Center (GMC) with positive PCR tests were searched for vitamin D levels measured two weeks to two years prior to infection. Here’s what they found:
- Patients with vitamin D deficiency (less than 20 ng/mL) were 14 times more likely to have severe or critical case of COVID than those with more than 40 ng/mL.
- Strikingly, mortality among patients with sufficient vitamin D levels was 2.3 percent, in contrast to 25.6 percent in the vitamin D deficient group.
- The study adjusted for age, gender, season (summer/winter), chronic diseases, and found similar results across the board highlighting that low vitamin D level contributes significantly to disease severity and mortality.
“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 Prof. Michael Edelstein, of the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University. “It is still unclear why certain individuals suffer severe consequences of COVID-19 infection while others don’t. Our finding adds a new dimension to solving this puzzle.”
The takeaway? Don’t wait till you’re sick to up your vitamin D. Elevate your levels before you’re face to face with the risk. Your doctor can prescribe a therapeutic dose of vitamin D to get your levels up, and supplements are available at 4,000 and 5,000 IU. Look for vitamin D3 for optimal bioavailability.