In a new study, researchers have discovered a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates.
The research was led by Northwestern University.
The team was inspired to examine vitamin D levels after noticing unexplained differences in COVID-19 mortality rates from country to country.
Some people hypothesized that differences in healthcare quality, age distributions in population, testing rates or different strains of the coronavirus might be responsible.
But the team saw a significant correlation with vitamin D deficiency.
The research team conducted a statistical analysis of data from hospitals and clinics across China, France, Germany, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States.
They noted that patients from countries with high COVID-19 mortality rates, such as Italy, Spain, and the UK, had lower levels of vitamin D compared to patients in countries that were not as severely affected.
They discovered a strong correlation between vitamin D levels and cytokine storm—a hyper-inflammatory condition caused by an overactive immune system—as well as a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and mortality.
Cytokine storms can severely damage the lungs and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in patients.
This is what seems to kill a majority of COVID-19 patients, not the destruction of the lungs by the virus itself. It is the complications from the misdirected fire from the immune system.
This is exactly where the team believes vitamin D plays a major role. Not only does vitamin D enhance our innate immune systems, but it also prevents our immune systems from becoming dangerously overactive.
This means that having healthy levels of vitamin D could protect patients against severe complications, including death, from COVID-19.
The team says vitamin D will not prevent a patient from contracting the virus, but it may reduce complications and prevent death in those who are infected.
This correlation might help explain the many mysteries surrounding COVID-19, such as why children are less likely to die.
Children do not yet have a fully developed acquired immune system, which is the immune system’s second line of defense and more likely to overreact.
The team is careful to note that people should not take excessive doses of vitamin D, which might come with negative side effects.
He said the topic needs much more research to know how vitamin D could be used most effectively to protect against COVID-19 complications.
The lead author of the study is Northwestern’s Vadim Backman.
The study is published in MEDRXIV.
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