Scientists say there is strong evidence that vitamin D health supplements help to reduce the symptoms and complications caused by coronavirus. They say they can bolster our immune systems to help us fight the disease.
An extensive study of the value of vitamin D in fighting Covid-19 has been carried out by researchers at Trinity College Dublin and Liverpool University, together with the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA).
They found that it can help support the immune system to counter SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
The researchers studied medical data from across Europe over the last 20 years. They found that the highest infection and death rates from Covid-19 were among populations with low levels of vitamin D. We get some of our vitamin D from sunlight but ironically, some of the countries with low levels of the vitamin included warm countries like Spain and Italy, possibly because people there tend to avoid the sun when possible and don’t get enough vitamin D from their diets.
North European countries like Norway, Finland and Denmark have high levels of vitamin D, even though they have less sunshine. They make up for the shortfall by taking vitamin supplements and eating more fortified foods.
The scientists who carried out the study say the correlation between low levels of vitamin D and death from Covid-19 is statistically significant, so much so that people should be encouraged to take supplements.
Professor Rose Anne Kenny of Trinity College told the Independent: “Whereas there are currently no results from randomised controlled trials to conclusively prove that vitamin D beneficially affects Covid-19 outcomes, there is strong circumstantial evidence of associations between vitamin D and the severity of Covid-19 responses, including death.
“We call on the Irish government to update guidelines as a matter of urgency and encourage all adults to take supplements during the Covid-19 crisis.
“Deficiency is frequent in Ireland. Deficiency is most prevalent with age, obesity, in men, in ethnic minorities, in people with diabetes, hypertension and in nursing homes.”
Dr Eamon Laird, from Trinity College and TILDA said: “Here we see observational evidence of a link of vitamin D with mortality.
“Optimising vitamin D intake to public health guidelines will certainly have benefits for overall health and support immune function.
“Research like this is still exploratory and we need further trials to have concrete evidence on the level of vitamin D that is needed for optimal immune function.”
The Irish and British research is backed up by a study carried out by Northwestern University in the United States.
The study looked at coronavirus data from 10 countries including China, Iran, Germany and Italy. They found a connection between low vitamin D levels and increased death rates, together with a complication known as cytokine storm, in which the virus caused the immune system to become so hyperactive that it leads to death.
The research suggested that while having high levels of vitamin D will not stop someone catching the virus, it can reduce complications and lessen the impact.
The scientists involved in all the projects say that more research is needed but the early results are very encouraging.
The Irish and Liverpool research has been published in full in the Irish Medical Journal.
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