Does Vitamin D Play a Role in the Severity of Coronavirus?

5/23/2020 11:00:00 PM

Research suggests low levels of the nutrient could affect mortality rates.

Looking at 20 European countries, researchers compared average levels of vitamin D, the numbers of COVID-19 cases for each country, and mortality rates. They found that countries with lower vitamin D levels—like Italy and Spain—also have high mortality rates from the virus.

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Although those two countries are known for their sunny climates, people in southern Europe—particularly the elderly—tend to avoid spending time in the sun, study coauthor, research director at Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust in the U.K., told

Runner’s World.Of course, correlation does not equal causation. But this research isn’t the only recent study to suggest a connection between vitamin D and COVID-19. A research team out of Northwestern University just published apreliminary studyalso suggesting that the dramatic variation in the virus mortality rates across populations could have vitamin D as a factor.

The limitation with these studies is that vitamin D is not measured in COVID-19 patients, those researchers noted, but previous studies on the vitamin and its role in immune health do provide some strong associations.Specifically, the Northwestern study suggests vitamin D may reduce COVID-19 severity by suppressing a “cytokine storm”—which happens when the immune response becomes so aggressive that it causes cell death and increases susceptibility to acute respiratory tract infections.

But why vitamin D in particular? It’s because this specific vitamin is a powerhouse when it comes to protective effects, Ilie said.“Approximately 3 percent of the human genome is under the control of vitamin D,” he said. He goes on to explain that vitamin D influences your “innate and adaptive” immune response, and that receptors for the vitamin are found on many cells involved in immune defense, such as B-cells, T-cells, and macrophages, which are all types of

that work to protect your body against illness and disease. Read more: Runner's World »

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