Vitamin D to the Coronavirus Rescue?

Vitamin D
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Rumors fly fast in the age of coronavirus.

Some fly as fact and some seem stranger than fiction.

And for all we know, what we now believe are facts may turn out to be the ones that are stranger than fiction.

Such is the evolving nature of information sharing and uncertainty that surrounds this virus, yet in the face of that uncertainty seems to lie many who believe what they believe with total certainty.

With that in mind, we set out to answer the question: Does vitamin D prevent coronavirus, or COVID-19?

Maybe.

Sometimes.

How’s that for certainly uncertain?

In the interest of full disclosure, readers should know that I am a major proponent of supplementing where necessary with vitamin D to prevent things like colds and other viral infections. My own personal opinion is that, properly used, it could even prevent seasonal allergies. That opinion is not based on the scientific research, but based on my own life where that has occurred.

As with all anecdotal evidence, that does not mean it will happen for you, but it has had an amazing impact on my life in terms of preventing colds, flus, and even seasonal allergies.

Again, this is in MY experience. That doesn’t mean it will be everyone’s as, at minimum, there are many factors that influence these things and there is no guarantee everyone will have the same experience anyway.

So, to get a better hold on things, let’s see what the recent science that is making some headlines says about vitamin D’s ability to help in the fight against COVID-19.

And in the process, challenge our own assumptions.

With that said, let’s start with the conclusion and work our way back to see how well it holds up.

The researchers, who published their findings in the Irish Medical Journal, concluded that the correlation between vitamin D concentration and COVID-19 mortality rate reached conventional significance when looking at sample of European countries or regions, based on published data.

Therefore, they reasoned, “there is a strong biological hypothesis and evolving epidemiological data supporting a role for vitamin D in COVID-19”.

This seems a fair, reasoned conclusion that refreshingly does not jump to stronger conclusions.

The rest of us, however, tend to like to jump to stronger conclusions, so let’s check some of the data to see if any are warranted.

The best illustration of the data comes in this chart, which charts the COVID-19 mortality rate per million people against mean vitamin D levels in the countries analyzed:

As you can see, although there is a trend that seems to show a higher COVID-19 mortality rate (further to the right on the chart) as vitamin D levels are lesser, there are a number of outliers as well.

For instance, it is easy to see both Italy and Spain, with their relatively low vitamin D levels, find themselves at the extreme (bad) end of the COVID-19 mortality rate range.

Scotland, however, with even lower vitamin D levels, finds itself quite near the low (good) end of the COVID-19 mortality rate range.

So, while there seems to be a fairly well-defined trend, there are also many data points that find themselves strewn far from the trendline. This confirms not only the need for further research, but that concept that there are many health factors which may contribute to the response to COVID-19, with vitamin D levels possibly among them.

The researchers also ask good questions that may offer us some additional insight into how people have been affected by this virus.

For example, we know that some ethnic minority communities in the West have been more adversely affected by the virus than white populations have, in particular those of African descent.

The researchers point out, and rightfully so, that darker-skinned populations tend to be at much higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. Could that be a contributing factor?

Certainly it could be, but we need further research to say for sure.

Also of note is the timing of data collection. In the grand scheme of things, we may still be fairly early on in the life of this virus. So, while a country like Sweden has the highest vitamin D levels, they have a higher COVID-19 mortality rate than its neighbors Norway and Finland, albeit still much lower than particularly hard-hit countries like Italy and Spain.

Sweden also, notably, has not enforced strict lockdown measures as most other populations have. Which begs the question:

Is Sweden further along on its path than other nations are? And, if so, will some of these other nations eventually catch up to where Sweden is when this is all said and done?

Hopefully not, but the results are not in yet.

So what does all of this ultimately tell us?

Obviously nothing definitive, but when a known immune-booster is associated with less severe reactions to a viral infection, it might be wise to pay attention.

Especially when that known immune-booster is also known to regulate cytokine response to pathogens, and many have cited so-called “cytokine storms” in the mortality of patients who died from COVID-19, it might be very wise to pay attention.

Ultimately, although there are several outliers in the data and we are still early on in the data collection process, the fact there is some statistical significance to the association of vitamin D deficiency to increased death rates, further consideration of the potential benefits of vitamin D is warranted.

Also warranted is further study as to the other possible causes, or contributors, to these associations. For example what are the rates of other comorbidities in these populations? And what associations, if any, exist between these rates and the COVID-19 death rates in those countries?

Additionally, how does vitamin D deficiency correlate to COVID-19 death rates in these countries when looked at in combination with comorbidities?

It may be impossible to find out as that granular level of data may not exist yet. Even if it does, it would require researchers with the inclination and funding to do the digging to find out for us.

Fortunately, these researchers out of Ireland were willing to do some digging for us and have founds some encouraging, albeit admittedly inconclusive, information.

And kudos to them for their honesty and for not overselling their findings. This has been one of the more measured studies I have seen in some time, especially in the realm of COVID-19.

So, in the meantime, what we do know is there is at least some evidence of a correlation between less adverse reactions for COVID-19 and a common vitamin, which can be procured by simply getting a little sunlight or through inexpensive supplementation.

Supplementation which, when in consult with your doctor, can be done extremely safely.

And still inexpensively.

While it is still true that correlation does not equal causation, it certainly seems worth it to talk to your doctor about this nugget of information and whether this may be a worthwhile addition to your health regimen.

One of potentially many that, put together, might help to give you as much power over your ability to defeat this virus as possible.

Reference: http://imj.ie/vitamin-d-and-inflammation-potential-implications-for-severity-of-covid-19/


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