As every potential therapy is being tried against COVID in a widespread rock-paper-scissors game of what can beat COVID, one notable vitamin stands out as a rather consistent winner against COVID 19. “And the winner is Vitamin D3” can be heard nearly every week in various medical research reports. The following studies offer three examples of contests in which D3 bested COVID 19 to some degree. One would think that D3 would be stockpiled and pumped into everyone rather than locking them up in their houses where they cannot get any sunlight, therefore dropping their internal vitamin D production.
Vitamin D3 is a steroid hormone involved with a multitude of metabolic processes including innate and acquired immunity. Besides influencing immune cell function, it encourages the production of cathelicidin and beta-defensins, anti-microbial peptides. Numerous studies link vitamin D3 with viral infection occurrence. Numerous studies indicate the vitamin D3 can lower various proinflammatory cytokines. With the high prevalence of COVID 19 occurring in the same groups of elderly who not only have chronic diseases but also have lower vitamin D levels, suspicions of a link have abounded.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism describes today’s first study in a Spanish hospital measuring the vitamin D levels in those patients admitted for COVID 19. They looked at 216 COVID 19 patients and found that 80 percent of the 216 were deficient in vitamin D. These patients with lower vitamin D were also found to have higher levels of inflammation markers ferritin and D-dimer. This would not be significant if 80% of the population were deficient, but only 47% of the area’s population were estimated as deficient. Thus, when evaluated statistically, the higher rate of COVID 19 in vitamin D deficient individuals was significant, indicating a high likelihood of a true connection.
An earlier study from May of this year by Ilie et al in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research reported an association between low vitamin D levels and higher COVID-19 death rates. Prior research showed that Vitamin D could help protect against other acute respiratory infections, so this should not be surprising. They also discussed the high rate of vitamin D deficiency in people in institutions like hospitals and nursing homes as well as those in the Mediterranean regions who tended to avoid the sun. Those in the Northern European countries actually had higher levels of vitamin D measured thought to be partly due to higher fish consumption and a higher use of vitamin D supplements. With their study indicating that vitamin D levels were lower in those hospitalized with COVID-19, they urged further research to uncover whether this was just a correlation or if vitamin D deficiency was truly leading to a higher risk of COVID-19 infection.
Our final rock-paper-scissors contest between vitamin D3 and COVID-19 came out of the University of Chicago in September. Published in JAMA Network Open, Meltzer et al examined the vitamin D levels of 489 patients at the university who had a prior vitamin D level within a year and were admitted for COVID-19. They found that patients with low levels of D3 who had not been treated for the deficiency were almost twice as likely to test positive for the virus. While the prior study only looked at vitamin D status after the infection occurred, this one gives us a prior picture and suggests that vitamin D3 deficiencies are playing a role prior to the infection rather than just being caused by the infection after the fact.
With those three studies suggesting a role for vitamin D3 in COVID-19 prevention, take a moment to review these studies where physicians are taking the next step and treating COVID-19 with vitamin D. Decide for yourself if we are missing the boat on the national scene by ignoring studies like these:
Ohaegbulam, Kim C et al. “Vitamin D Supplementation in COVID-19 Patients: A Clinical Case Series.” American journal of therapeutics vol. 27,5 (2020): e485-e490. doi:10.1097/MJT.0000000000001222
Quoted: ” Clinical outcomes: Patients that received a high dose of vitamin D supplementation achieved normalization of vitamin D levels and improved clinical recovery evidenced by shorter lengths of stay, lower oxygen requirements, and a reduction in inflammatory marker status.”
Xu, Yi et al. “The importance of vitamin d metabolism as a potential prophylactic, immunoregulatory and neuroprotective treatment for COVID-19.” Journal of translational medicine vol. 18,1 322. 26 Aug. 2020, doi:10.1186/s12967-020-02488-5
Summary: This article considered the potential pathways by which vitamin D could influence COVID-19 viral infection.
Grant, William B et al. “Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths.” Nutrients vol. 12,4 988. 2 Apr. 2020, doi:10.3390/nu12040988
Quoted from abstract: “To reduce the risk of infection, it is recommended that people at risk of influenza and/or COVID-19 consider taking 10,000 IU/d of vitamin D3 for a few weeks to rapidly raise 25(OH)D concentrations, followed by 5000 IU/d. The goal should be to raise 25(OH)D concentrations above 40-60 ng/mL (100-150 nmol/L). For treatment of people who become infected with COVID-19, higher vitamin D3 doses might be useful. Randomized controlled trials and large population studies should be conducted to evaluate these recommendations.”
Xiao, Dongqiong et al. “Could SARS-CoV-2-induced lung injury be attenuated by vitamin D?.” International journal of infectious diseases : IJID : official publication of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, S1201-9712(20)32263-3. 28 Oct. 2020, doi:10.1016/j.ijid.2020.10.059
Summary: Simply asking the question if Vitamin D might protect COVID-19 patients from lung injury.
What can we take away from all this rock-paper-scissors contests and predictions of possible benefits for vitamin D use against COVID-19? First, we have a safe, inexpensive, easily accessed therapy available to nearly everyone. Second, the minimal risk of vitamin D toxicity can be avoided by a simple lab test to monitor levels. Third, we can start using this even while we move forward with further studies. Fourth, ask your doctor about getting your level checked or taking some vitamin D. Living a healthier more abundant life includes the simple steps of taking care of yourself and preventing viral infections whether a common or a deadly one.
José L Hernández, Daniel Nan, Marta Fernandez-Ayala, Mayte García-Unzueta, Miguel A Hernández-Hernández, Marcos López-Hoyos, Pedro Muñoz-Cacho, José M Olmos, Manuel Gutiérrez-Cuadra, Juan J Ruiz-Cubillán, Javier Crespo, Víctor M Martínez-Taboada, Vitamin D Status in Hospitalized Patients with SARS-CoV-2 Infection, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, , dgaa733, https://doi.org/10.1210/clinem/dgaa733
Petre Cristian Ilie, Simina Stefanescu, Lee Smith. The role of vitamin D in the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 infection and mortality. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 2020; DOI: 10.1007/s40520-020-01570-8
David O. Meltzer, Thomas J. Best, Hui Zhang, Tamara Vokes, Vineet Arora, Julian Solway. Association of Vitamin D Status and Other Clinical Characteristics With COVID-19 Test Results. JAMA Network Open, 2020; 3 (9): e2019722 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.19722
Thanks to Science Daily:
The Endocrine Society. “Over 80 percent of COVID-19 patients have vitamin D deficiency, study finds: Vitamin D deficiency was more prevalent in men.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 October 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201027092216.htm>.
Anglia Ruskin University. “Vitamin D linked to low virus death rate, study finds: New COVID-19 research finds relationship in data from 20 European countries.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200507131012.htm>.
University of Chicago Medical Center. “Vitamin D deficiency may raise risk of getting COVID-19, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 September 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200903133007.htm>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.