SHOTS, Health News from NPR – When the pandemic hit, many Americans turned to vitamins and supplements in hopes of boosting their immune systems.
Scientists also raced to study them. Vitamin D, perhaps more than any other, captured the attention of researchers.
Even the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci, embraced the idea of using the vitamin to help keep COVID-19 at bay, saying in September that he takes a supplement to avoid being deficient and “would not mind recommending” it to others.
So should you take vitamin D to prevent or even treat COVID-19?
More than a year into the pandemic, many of the studies that can offer high-quality evidence are still in the works, but there’s now enough out there to offer clues — as well as fodder for spirited debate — about the question.
But first — why vitamin D?
It’s unrealistic to think any one supplement can be a cure-all, but there are some compelling reasons to study vitamin D in the context of COVID-19.
Vitamin D plays a vital role in bone health and, along with calcium, helps prevent people from developing osteoporosis. And there’s growing evidence it helps keep the immune system running properly.
In recent years, researchers have increasingly studied the effect of vitamin D supplementation on respiratory infections, with some clinical trials finding no meaningful effect and others suggesting it can be protective.
A 2017 review study that analyzed 25 randomized, controlled trials concluded vitamin D helped prevent acute respiratory tract infections.
Vitamin D may help boost the innate immune system in a number of ways, said Dr. Adit Ginde, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and one of the study’s authors.
One mechanism, he said, is by increasing antimicrobial peptides, which function as natural antibiotic and antiviral guards against pathogens …
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Study: Vitamin D Supplementation Could Protect From Severe COVID-19
Aislinn Antrim, Associate Editor, March 31, 2021
New research suggests that hospitalized patients with COVID-10 and low vitamin D levels could have a lower risk of dying or requiring mechanical ventilation if they receive at least 1000 units of vitamin D supplementation weekly, according to a press release.
Earlier research has found that vitamin D supplementation can prevent inflammation in other respiratory diseases, but the investigators noted that there have been limited studies examining the role of vitamin D supplementation in COVID-19.
The press release noted a study published last fall in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, which found that more than 80% of 200 COVID-19 patients in a hospital in Spain had vitamin D deficiency.
The authors of the current study said their goal was to determine whether being supplemented with vitamin D before hospital admission with COVID-19 resulted in less severe disease.
“Given how common vitamin D deficiency is in the world and the United States, we believe that this research is highly relevant right now,” said co-author Sweta Chekuri, MD, in the press release.
The investigative team studied 124 adult patients with low vitamin D levels that were measured up to 90 days before their admission for COVID-19.
They compared the patients who were supplemented with at least 1000 units of vitamin D weekly to those who had not received supplements to see whether they were mechanically ventilated or died during admission.
According to the study, they found that patients who were supplemented were less likely to be mechanically ventilated or to die following admission, although the finding was not statistically significant. Specifically, 37.5% of patients died or were mechanically ventilated compared to 33.3% of those who were supplemented.
The investigators also found that more than half of those who should have been supplemented were not.
“Though we weren’t able to show a definitive link to severe COVID-19, it is clear that patients with low vitamin D should receive supplementation not only for bone health, but also for stronger protection against severe COVID-19,” said study co-author Corinne Levitus, DO, in the press release.
“We hope this research will encourage clinicians to discuss adding this supplement with their patients who have low vitamin D, as this may reduce the odds of people developing severe COVID-19 … ” Click here to read more.