Low Vitamin D Might Raise Odds of COVID Infection
FRIDAY, September 4, 2020 (HealthDay News) – There is some evidence that low blood levels of “sunshine vitamin” – vitamin D – can increase the risk of infection with the novel coronavirus, researchers say.
“Vitamin D is important for the functioning of the immune system and vitamin D supplements have already been shown to reduce the risk of viral infections of the respiratory tract,” said study lead author Dr David. Meltzer. He is chief of hospital medicine at the University of Chicago Medicine.
For the new study, Meltzer’s team followed coronavirus infections among 489 patients whose vitamin D levels were measured in the year before they were tested for the new coronavirus.
Although the study could not determine cause and effect, patients with untreated vitamin D deficiency (blood levels below 20 ng / ml) were almost twice as likely to test positive. for the coronavirus as patients with sufficient vitamin D levels, the researchers said.
“Our statistical analysis suggests that this may be true for the COVID-19 infection,” Meltzer said in a press release from the medical center.
Half of Americans are vitamin D deficient, with much higher rates among black and Hispanic Americans and people who live in areas like Chicago, where it is difficult to get enough sun in the winter.
The body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight.
“Understanding whether treating vitamin D deficiency changes the risk of COVID-19 could be of great importance locally, nationally and globally,” Meltzer said. “Vitamin D is inexpensive, generally very safe to take, and can be scaled up widely,” he noted.
More research is needed to determine whether vitamin D supplements could reduce the risk of infection with the novel coronavirus and even the severity of COVID-19, the study authors said.
Dr Len Horovitz is a pulmonologist and internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. Reading the new findings, he said the research “suggested that [vitamin] D plays an essential role in the immune system. This ongoing study highlights this: D appears to reduce the risk of becoming infected with COVID, and other studies have suggested that patients with D deficiency fare worse with COVID. “
Horovitz suggested that the pandemic could even increase vitamin D deficiency levels.
“Due to city life and especially the ‘closures’, there was less exposure to the sun and therefore more findings of D deficiency in my practice,” he noted.
Fortunately, an easy remedy is at hand, as vitamin D supplements are available. “The appropriate dose depends on the size of the patient and their exposure to the sun, and can be easily measured with a simple blood test,” Horovitz said.
Meltzer’s group believes there is a need for studies to identify which vitamin D supplementation strategies might be most effective in specific groups of people. Chicago researchers said they have already launched several of these clinical trials.
The study was published online on September 3 at JAMA network open.
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