A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology revealed people who have low levels of vitamin D are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering more severe illness.
The researchers also found vitamin D deficiency upon admission to the hospital resulted in a 3.7-fold higher mortality rate of individuals with the disease, regardless of other risk factors such as age, chronic lung disease, coronary artery disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, a noted board-certified internist, said the study, published Nov. 25, found over 59% of people with COVID-19 were deficient in vitamin D when they were admitted to the hospital and the deficiency was more pronounced in men with advanced stages of COVID-19 related pneumonia.
"We don't know if the lack of vitamin D causes severe illness and death, or COVID-19 causes a deficiency in this crucial supplement," Teitelbaum tells Newsmax. "But what we do know is that many studies have shown its benefits in protecting against the disease."
Teitelbaum points out Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he takes vitamin D.
"He knows the research," Teitelbaum said.
The new study backs up previous research led by Dr. Lee Smith of Anglia Ruskin University that was published in the Aging Clinical and Experimental Research journal. Scientists found people in countries that have the highest mortality rates from COVID-19 like Italy and Spain, also had the lowest levels of vitamin D.
Conversely, the highest levels of vitamin D were found in northern European countries with the lowest mortality rates, according to Science Daily.
The authors speculated people in northern Europe take more vitamin D supplements along with cod liver oil and spend more time in the sun.
"We found a significant crude relationship between average vitamin D levels and the number of COVID-19 cases, and particularly COVID-19 mortality rates," Dr. Smith said. "Vitamin D has been shown to protect against acute respiratory infections, and older adults, the group most deficient in vitamin D, are also the ones most seriously affected by the virus."
People who are deficient in the sunshine vitamin are almost twice as likely to contract COVID-19, according to a study from the University of Chicago Medicine. Researchers found low levels of vitamin D, less than 20 nanograms per liter, increased the risk of testing positive for the virus by 1.77%, according to their findings published in JAMA Network.
Vitamin D is produced in the skin from the UVB rays of the sun. It is then carried into the liver and kidneys where it is synthesized into a hormone that carries calcium throughout the body to boost bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. But it also supports the immune system and helps fight viruses like SARs-CoV-2, the pathogen that causes COVID-19. Unfortunately, very few foods — aside from fatty fish — contain vitamin D, so if you are not getting enough sunshine, taking supplements is a must.
Teitelbaum, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic, says vitamin D has always been at the top of his list to battle viral infections.
"Optimizing vitamin D is critical for both lowering your risk of getting COVID-19, and the severity of the infection," he said. "Multiple epidemiological studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D are associated with a much worse outcome from the disease. I personally recommend taking a multivitamin containing 1,000 IU daily."
Currently, U.S. guidelines recommend 600 International Units, or IU, daily for adults under the age of 70 and 800 IU for those over 70.
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