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Does Vitamin D help prevent or treat COVID-19?

This article was published on
January 13, 2021

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According to the US National Institutes of Health, "there are insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of vitamin D for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19." Researchers are now working on several studies to determine if Vitamin D can be effective in preventing or treating COVID-19. Multiple observational studies have shown an association between vitamin D deficiency and higher numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths. While current evidence does suggest that vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for COVID-19, there have not been studies to evaluate whether vitamin D supplementation may help prevent COVID-19. Further studies are also needed to better understand what level of deficiency carries COVID-19 risk. A pre-print study from November 2020, found that vitamin D supplementation did not benefit hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19. Researchers noted that vitamin D levels did increase, but hospital length of stay, mortality (death), admission to the intensive care (ICU), and the need for mechanical ventilation (ventilator support for breathing) did not significantly differ between the experimental group who received vitamin D and the placebo group (who did not receive vitamin D). Studies to explore the possible benefit of vitamin D supplementation in prevention and treatment of COVID-19 are ongoing.

According to the US National Institutes of Health, "there are insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of vitamin D for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19." Researchers are now working on several studies to determine if Vitamin D can be effective in preventing or treating COVID-19. Multiple observational studies have shown an association between vitamin D deficiency and higher numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths. While current evidence does suggest that vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for COVID-19, there have not been studies to evaluate whether vitamin D supplementation may help prevent COVID-19. Further studies are also needed to better understand what level of deficiency carries COVID-19 risk. A pre-print study from November 2020, found that vitamin D supplementation did not benefit hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19. Researchers noted that vitamin D levels did increase, but hospital length of stay, mortality (death), admission to the intensive care (ICU), and the need for mechanical ventilation (ventilator support for breathing) did not significantly differ between the experimental group who received vitamin D and the placebo group (who did not receive vitamin D). Studies to explore the possible benefit of vitamin D supplementation in prevention and treatment of COVID-19 are ongoing.

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What our experts say

According to the US National Institutes of Health, "there are insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of vitamin D for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19." Researchers are now working on several studies to determine if Vitamin D can be effective in preventing or treating COVID-19.

Multiple observational studies have shown an association between vitamin D deficiency and higher numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths. While current evidence does suggest that vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for COVID-19, there have not been studies to evaluate whether vitamin D supplementation may help prevent COVID-19. Further studies are also needed to better understand what level of deficiency carries COVID-19 risk.

A pre-print study from November 2020, found that vitamin D supplementation did not benefit hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19. Researchers noted that vitamin D levels did increase, but hospital length of stay, mortality (death), admission to the intensive care (ICU), and the need for mechanical ventilation (ventilator support for breathing) did not significantly differ between the experimental group who received vitamin D and the placebo group (who did not receive vitamin D).

Studies to explore the possible benefit of vitamin D supplementation in prevention and treatment of COVID-19 are ongoing.

Context and background

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient available in foods like salmon or egg yolks, or dietary supplements. It can also be made in the body when the skin is exposed to the sun.

Having enough vitamin D in the body is important for bone health and helps ensure your body's immune system and its cells are working well so they can respond to infections and viruses. Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce cancer cell growth in some cancers, help minimize inflammation, and help control infections.

Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D (vitamin D deficiency) are common, so blood screening for vitamin D deficiency has become common in many developed countries. Some groups at increased risk for vitamin D deficiency include breastfed infants, older adults, people with limited sun exposure, people with dark skin, and people who are obese. Routine vitamin D supplementation may be needed to prevent deficiency, especially in the winter months when people spend more time indoors and have more of their skin covered with clothing while outdoors.

Vitamin D does play an important role in immune function, and prevention and treatment of vitamin D deficiency is recommended for health. At this time, there is not enough data to suggest that Vitamin D intake or supplementation can prevent or treat COVID-19.

Resources

  1. Lancet review on Vitamin D and COVID-19 outcomes (The Lancet)
  2. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research study on Vitamin D and the prevention of COVID-19 (Aging)
  3. BMJ study on Vitamin D and COVID-19 (BMJ)
  4. Pre-print study of patterns of COVID-19 mortality and Vitamin D (SSRN)
  5. Pre-print study on the possible role of Vitamin D and cytokine storms in COVID-19 (Medrxiv)
  6. Harvard review of Vitamin D (HSPH)
  7. Journal of Investigative Medicine review of Vitamin D and the immune system (JIM)
  8. Association of Vitamin D Status and Other Clinical Characteristics with COVID-19 Test Results (JAMA)
  9. Vitamin D (NIH-ODS)
  10. Effect of Vitamin D3 Supplementation vs Placebo on Hospital Length of Stay in Patients with Severe COVID-19: A Multicenter, Double-blind, Randomized Controlled Trial (medRxiv)
  11. Vitamin D (US NIH)

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