Sunnier Areas Have Lower COVID-19 Death Rates

So how could the extra sunlight put the brakes on COVID-19?

One possible explanation, according to Weller’s group, is that exposure to the sun causes the skin to release a chemical called nitric oxide. Some lab studies have shown that nitric oxide may reduce the ability of the novel coronavirus to replicate and spread. The study authors plan to continue with more research regarding this theory.

Previous research by the same team found that increased sun exposure was associated with better heart health, lower blood pressure, and fewer heart attacks. Heart disease is a known risk factor for dying from COVID-19, so previous research could also help explain the new findings, they suggested.

Two COVID-19 experts in the United States agreed the results were intriguing, but deserved further study.

“The research does not establish a cause and effect and represents an association at best,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. He was not surprised that vitamin D had no health benefits.

“While there is some evidence that vitamin D may have beneficial effects on immune function, a specific antiviral effect remains to be proven at this time,” Glatter said. “In fact, a randomized controlled study in people with moderate to severe COVID-19 who received high-dose vitamin D showed no benefit.”

Dr Amesh Adalja, senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, is an expert on viruses. He said the research raises interesting questions, but the nitric oxide hypothesis needs further study.

“Putting this link together to show the mechanism of how this happens, I think this is where you would like to see this line of research go, in order to show that there is an independent benefit of the vitamin as well. D from sunlight, ā€¯Adalja said. .

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 prevention.

SOURCES: Amesh Adalja, MD, senior researcher, Center for Health Security, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore; Robert Glatter, MD, emergency physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York; British Journal of Dermatology, April 8, 2021;University of Edinburgh, press release, April 8, 2021

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