COVID-19: Lack of vitamin D increases the risk of hospitalization
The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing and we are currently being threatened by B117 and other mutated versions of the virus. Some people are immune, some get mild infections, and some develop life-threatening complications. A team of international scientists has tried to find out why people react so differently. It appears vitamin D deficiency plays a major role. According to a new study that is published in the science journal Endocrine in January 2021, low blood levels of vitamin D are linked to an increased risk of being hospitalized. The scientists behind the new study point to vitamin D supplements as an inexpensive and fast way to improve patients’ health.
On a global scale, around 125 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 2.7 million deaths have been registered. A COVID-19 infection normally starts by virus infecting cells in the nasal cavity and spreading to the lower respiratory tract. Here, it can cause bronchitis and pneumonia combined with fever. Some people are immune to the infection and reject it but most people develop a mild to moderate infection. However, if the immune defense does not function optimally, there is a risk of hyperinflammation, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and failure in organs and the circulatory system and that is why weak patients succumb to the disease.
Risk factors in severe cases of COVID-19
So far, the scientists have discovered that people with diabetes, overweight, and hypertension have an increased risk of complications caused by COVID-19. A possible cause may be that these health conditions are associated with chronic low-grade inflammation that is linked to a variety of complications. It has also been observed that men are more exposed than women and that may be down to hormonal factors. Men are generally at substantially greater risk than women of becoming more ill or even dying from infectious diseases. This is also the case with influenza and tuberculosis.
Vitamin D has a number of mechanisms in the immune defense
Vitamin D is important for the innate immune defense that serves as storm troops. It also supports the adaptive immune system that develops after we are born. Without vitamin D, our white blood cells (the T cells) are not able to be activated or to divide. Vitamin D is also necessary for helping the immune defense react normally without overreacting and causing unwanted inflammation that can attack and damage healthy tissue.
Multiple studies show that humans with low vitamin D levels in their blood are more prone to getting viral and bacterial infections. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries reported a link between vitamin D deficiency and higher mortality rate. It turns out that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have much lower levels of vitamin D in their blood.
Many COVID-19 patients already have other diseases
The mentioned study was carried out in Armenia, a country with three million inhabitants and a very large ethnic and cultural diversity. In a hospital in Yerevan, scientists measured blood levels of vitamin D in 330 patients over a period of four weeks. They were all hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19. The scientists also looked at other data that could affect the results, including age, gender, BMI, occupation, smoking habits, and the presence of other diseases.
They found that many of the COVID-19 patients suffered from hypertension, diabetes, smoking-related complications, and lung diseases. They also found that older patients and those with a high BMI stayed longer in the hospital and required more intensive treatment. The patients were hospitalized for 11 days on average and 24 of them died.
Blood levels of vitamin D are categorized as:
Regular deficiency (less than 30 nmol/L)
Alarming vitamin D deficiency and supplements as part of the treatment
It turned out that the hospitalized COVID-19 patients had an average vitamin D level of 13 nmol/L, which is far too low. In 45 percent of the patients, levels were below 12 nmol/L. The alarmingly low vitamin D status reveals a notable connection between vitamin D and COVID-19, as only 13 percent of the normal Armenian population has similarly low levels of the nutrient. These low levels serve to show that vitamin D deficiency has a negative impact on the immune system and its ability to tackle virus infections. The scientists conclude that more studies are needed to show if vitamin D therapy can help protect against COVID-19 and help make infections less dangerous. The new study is published in the science journal Endocrine.
Vitamin D supplements may help reduce the number of deaths
In the Spanish town named Andalusia, scientists started giving vulnerable groups of people an active form of vitamin D back in November 2020. As a result, the number of hospitalized patients plummeted and the death rate went down. Meanwhile, the number of deaths went up in other places, most likely because vitamin D deficiencies are more common during the winter period. You can read about the study on this website.
Liji Thomas. Vitamin D deficiency associated with higher risk of COVID-19 hospitalization. News Medical Life Sciences. Jan 21, 2021
Lobachevsky University. Scientists have identified the role of chronic inflammation as the cause of accelerating aging. Medical Xpress. 2020
Hutchings, N. et al. Patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Endocrine.
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