Vitamin D could unravel several mysteries about how we react to COVID-19

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What correlation exists between low vitamin D levels and hyperactive immune systems, how does this influence how we react to COVID and how vitamin D could be used most effectively to protect against COVID-19 complications – these were just a few of the questions to which researchers at Northwestern University sought answers.

The research team performed statistical analysis of data from numerous hospitals and clinics in China, France, Germany, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. After studying global data from the new coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the researchers found a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality. Vitamin D strengthens innate immunity and prevents hyperactive immune reactions. The finding could explain several mysteries, including why deaths among children are unlikely to occur due to COVID-19.

The researchers noted that patients in countries with a high mortality rate due to COVID-19, such as Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, had lower levels of vitamin D compared to patients in countries that were not so severely affected. This finding has been cautiously communicated so that people, especially those without a known deficiency, won’t start using vitamin D supplements.

While he thinks it’s important for people to know that vitamin D deficiency could play a role in mortality from the new coronavirus, “we don’t have to focus on that,” said Vadim Backman, who led the research in Northwestern and who is the director of the Northwestern Center for Genomics and Physical Engineering.

Backman and his team considered examining vitamin D levels after noticing unexplained differences in COVID-19 mortality rates across countries. Other research has suggested that differences in the quality of care, age distribution of the population, test rates, or different strains of coronavirus may be responsible. But Backman remained skeptical. He says that “none of these factors seem to play a significant role.”

The correlation found between vitamin D levels and the cytokine storm – a hyperinflammatory condition caused by an overactive immune system – is as strong as the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and mortality.

“The cytokine storm can severely damage the lungs and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and the death of patients,” Daneshkhah said. “This condition appears to be the cause of death in most COVID-19 patients, not the destruction of the lungs by the virus itself.”

Vitamin D improves the innate immune systems, but also prevents our immune systems from becoming dangerously hyperactive. This means that a healthy level of vitamin D could protect patients from severe complications, including death from COVID-19.

In light of this research, people should not take excessive doses of vitamin D, because they may face negative side effects. More research is needed to know how vitamin D could be most effectively used to protect against COVID-19 complications.

It is still difficult to know what dose is most beneficial for COVID-19, but it is clear that vitamin D deficiency is harmful, and can be easily addressed with proper supplementation, primarily through a balanced diet. This could be another key in helping to protect vulnerable segments of population, such as the elderly, who have vitamin D deficiencies. A suitable and recommended method of vitamin D supplementation is a balanced long-term diet.

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