A team of researchers at Trinity College Dublin has been calling on the Ireland government to change the current recommendations for vitamin D supplements.
The researchers analyzed all European adult population studies, which measured vitamin D and compared it with the mortality rates from COVID-19, the infection caused by the novel coronavirus.
The findings were published in the Irish Medical Journal. The researchers, Dr. Eamon Laird and Prof. Rose Anne Kenny from Trinity College Dublin, and Prof. Jon Rhodes from the University of Liverpool, highlighted the link between vitamin D and COVID-19 death rates.
Apart from keeping bones strong, Vitamin D is essential for the immune system, which can help fight various infectious diseases, including COVID-19. In fact, many studies have shown that vitamin D plays a key role in fighting viral infections.
This study shows that countries, such as Spain and Northern Italy, which are at a lower latitude, had poor vitamin D levels, with many people having vitamin D deficiency. In addition, these countries have experienced the highest rate of infection and death in Europe.
However, countries such as Finland, Sweden, and Norway were found to have high vitamin D levels in spite of lower latitude and less sunlight exposure, because they follow supplementation. These countries have lower coronavirus infection and death rates.
Given the above findings, the researchers said the association between low vitamin D levels and COVID-19 death is statistically significant.
They explained that increasing vitamin D levels not only benefits bone and muscle health but also reduces the risk of serious coronavirus complications. They also explained that vitamin D has a key role in regulating and suppressing the inflammatory cytokine response, one of the serious consequences of COVID-19 infection.
Prof. Rose Anne Kenny said, “In England, Scotland and Wales, public health bodies have revised recommendations since the COVID-19 outbreak. Recommendations now state that all adults should take at least 400 IU vitamin D daily.”
“Whereas there are currently no results from randomized 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.”
“This study further confirms this association.” Prof. Kenny added. “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.”
“Here we see observational evidence of a link of vitamin D with mortality,” Dr. Laird said. “Optimizing 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. However, studies like this also remind us how low our vitamin D status is in the population (even in sunny countries) and adds further weight to some sort of mandatory vitamin D fortification policy.”
“If the Nordic countries are allowed to do this, there is no reason Ireland, the UK or rest of Europe can’t either,” Dr. Laird added. The original article appeared on Science Daily.