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Experts Weigh in on Vitamin D for COVID-19

Aside from insulin resistance, discussed in “The Real Pandemic Is Insulin Resistance,” mounting research reveals vitamin D deficiency is one of the primary risk factors for severe COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, complications and death. 

Vitamin D can strengthen your immune system in a matter of a few weeks, and according to recent research, correcting vitamin D deficiency could save thousands of lives in Great Britain alone. As reported by conservative member of the British Parliament David Davis and writer Matt Ridley in a September 26, 2020, article in The Telegraph:1

“As we face six tough months of curfews, isolation and economic misery, with vaccines a distant hope, testing struggling to control the virus, and the hospitalization rate once again rising, it’s surely time to try anything reasonable to slow the pandemic down. 

There is one chemical that is known to be safe, known to be needed by many people anyway, known to have a clinically proven track record of helping people fight off respiratory diseases, and is so cheap no big firm is pushing it: vitamin D. It is not a silver bullet, but growing evidence suggests that it might help prevent COVID turning serious in some people.”

Randomized Control Trial Confirms Vitamin D Cuts ICU Rates

As reported by The Telegraph, while initial support for vitamin D relied on data showing correlations between vitamin D levels and infection rates and COVID-19 outcomes, we now have a randomized, controlled trial backing it up.

The study,2,3,4,5 published online August 29, 2020, found hospitalized COVID-19 patients who received supplemental calcifediol (a vitamin D3 analog also known as 25-hydroxycholecalciferol or 25-hydroxyvitamin D) in addition to standard of care — which included the use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin — had significantly lower intensive care unit admissions. It also eliminated deaths. 

Patients in the vitamin D arm (50 out of 76 enrolled patients) received 532 micrograms of calcifediol on the day of admission (equivalent to 106,400 IUs of vitamin D6) followed by 266 mcg on Days 3 and 7 (equivalent to 53,200 IUs7). After that, they received 266 mcg once a week until discharge, ICU admission or death.

Of those receiving calcifediol, only 2% required ICU admission, compared to 50% of those who did not get calcifediol. In other words, the addition of vitamin D reduced a patient’s risk of needing intensive care 25-fold.8

What’s more, none of those in the vitamin D arm died, compared to 7.6% in the standard care group. The graph below, created by GrassrootsHealth,9 illustrates the difference in ICU admissions and deaths between the two trial groups.

As noted by Davis and Ridley:10

“While the sample is too small to conclude that vitamin D abolishes the risk of death in COVID patients, it is nonetheless an astonishing result, and corresponds with Prof Backman’s assertion that correcting vitamin deficiency might cut mortality by half. The Government should now act on this latest evidence.

Vitamin D supplementation is cheap — it costs less than a penny a pill — and readily available. If you allocated this to the identified comorbidity risk group it would cost £45 million: to these, plus to every ethnic minority citizen, about £200 million, to every obese person somewhat more. These costs are trivial rounding errors by comparison with the costs of lockdown.

With hospitals already facing pressures from influenza during the winter months, any way of reducing this strain should be taken up. This will no doubt save thousands of lives in any second wave. There is now no reason not to act.”

Vitamin D Sufficiency Cuts Fatalities in Half

Another study,11,12,13 published online September 25, 2020, in PLOS ONE, found COVID-19 patients with a vitamin D level of at least 30 ng/mL had a significantly lower risk of adverse clinical outcomes, including a 51.5% lower risk of dying. 

Hospital data of 235 COVID-19-positive patients were analyzed for this study. Of those, 74% had severe symptoms and 32.8% were vitamin D deficient. As reported by the authors:14

“After adjusting for confounding factors, there was a significant association between vitamin D sufficiency and reduction in clinical severity, inpatient mortality serum levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and an increase in lymphocyte percentage. 

Only 9.7% of patients older than 40 years who were vitamin D sufficient succumbed to the infection compared to 20% who had a circulating level of 25(OH)D< 30 ng/ml.

The significant reduction in serum CRP, an inflammatory marker, along with increased lymphocytes percentage suggest that vitamin D sufficiency also may help modulate the immune response possibly by reducing risk for cytokine storm in response to this viral infection.

Therefore, it is recommended that improving vitamin D status in the general population and in particular hospitalized patients has a potential benefit in reducing the severity of morbidities and mortality associated with acquiring COVID-19.”

One of the co-authors of this study was Dr. Michael Holick, a professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics and molecular medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. Holick is also on GrassrootsHealth’s vitamin D expert panel,15 and is widely recognized as one of the leading vitamin D experts in the world.

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