While the millennials were busy making New Year resolutions last December, little, did they know what 2020 was bringing to them? With the clock ticking down to January 2020, COVID-19 was ready to strike the world after its beginning in Wuhan, China. It was only a matter of days when thousands would succumb to the deadly viral infection.
Researchers found themselves on their toes to find a vaccine. But health experts were busy trying to manage the signs and symptoms of the viral disease. On the clinical side, it was here that many therapeutic remedies came to the spotlight with promising results to manage viral infection. Among them was the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D.
There is no vaccine available against Coronavirus infection. Health experts have no choice but to resort to the management of the disease. For the world population spared by the COVID-19 invasion, prevention remains the only option. In such case scenario, Vitamin D can impact your chances of contracting the disease. How? Read on to know.
The deal about Vitamin D
Vitamin D has a definitive role in maintaining bone health in our bodies. Yet, the discovery of its preventive role for respiratory infections is not a clinical coincidence. Vitamin D has remained an active topic of research since the 1930s. Using cod liver oil supplement to safeguard against cold and flu was a common custom. This traditional therapeutic practice got its backing from scientific research.
The results of several meta-analyses of randomized control trials (from 2007-2020) are noteworthy in this regard. Vitamin D enhances our bodies’ immune system, a property effective against acute respiratory infections.
When vitamin D deficiency came up as a possible risk factor for COVID-19 infection, health experts became enthusiastic. Because they identified a viable way to cut back on the prevalence of the disease. Go on to know the association between the sunshine vitamin and COVID-19.
The role of Vitamin D regarding COVID-19 prevention
The World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health do not recommend using Vitamin D to treat or prevent infection with the COVID-19 virus (1)(2). And their stance is quite logical because there is a lack of enough data to advocate using Vitamin D regarding COVID-19 prevention.
However, clinical evidence suggests otherwise. Many studies evaluated the impact of Vitamin D on the COVID-19 prognosis. Here’s what they found:
A study conducted on 489 individuals revealed that vitamin D deficiency made them more prone to test positive for coronavirus(3). The results were in sharp contrast to other groups that did not show any signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
A different study analyzed the hypothesis from another angle (4). The researchers observed that a group of people suffering from COVID-19 had high rates of vitamin D deficiency. The symptoms of acute respiratory failure were also more prevalent in this group.
Yet another randomized study analyzed a small group of people hospitalized with COVID-19 (5). All of them were given a high dose of calcifediol (a type of vitamin D). The group supplemented with the vitamin had only one subject treated in the intensive care unit. In contrast, the other group who did not receive the vitamin supplement had 13 residents requiring treatment in the intensive care unit.
Another observational study compared the epidemiological data of countries with a high prevalence of COVID-19 and its possible link to the subject population’s vitamin D levels (6). The results show an inverse relationship between vitamin D levels and the severity of COVID-19 disease.
The proposed link of Vitamin D with COVID-19
The research is still in infancy, but observations endorse the worst fears of health experts that vitamin D may have an impact on COVID-19 infection.
What we know, for the fact that vitamin D indeed plays a role when it comes to a healthy immune system. Our immune system is the first line of defense against disease. Vitamin D mediates the immune response by regulating anti-inflammatory pathways. It also helps activate immune response at many stages. For example, it revs up the functions of immune cells in the body.
Vitamin D deficiency directly affects lung functions, making the organ more susceptible to respiratory infections.
Do you need a reminder that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and the coronavirus attacks the lungs? We do not think so.
Take home message
Till the time researchers find a vaccine for COVID-19, health experts encourage adopting preventive measures against the infection. Personal hygiene and social distancing play their part in cutting back the risk to Coronavirus, and so do measures that enhance your immune levels. Since many loud advocates credit Vitamin D for its possible role in reducing the risk of contracting the disease, why not be safe now,rather than sorry later? After all, the sunshine vitamin has many other health benefits that will not put your health at any disadvantage.
- Vitamin D. National Institutes of Health. https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/adjunctive-therapy/vitamin-d/. Accessed Sept. 9, 2022.
- Coronavirus disease — Answers. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/coronavirus-disease-answers? query=vitamin. Accessed Sept. 23, 2020.
- Meltzer DO, et al. Association of vitamin D status and other clinical characteristics with COVID-19 test results. JAMA Network Open. 2020; DOI:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.19722.
- Carpagnano GE, et al. Vitamin D deficiency as a predictor of poor prognosis in patients with acute respiratory failure due to COVID-19. Journal of Endocrinological Investigation. 2020; DOI: 10.1007/s40618-020-01370-x.
- Castillo ME, et al. Effect of calcifediol treatment and best available therapy versus best available therapy on intensive care unit admission and mortality among patients hospitalized for COVID-19: A pilot randomized clinical study. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 2020; DOI:10.1016/j.jsbmb.2020.105751.