After two years of COVID-19, it is starting to feel like the new normal. COVID seems everywhere and possibly inevitable – which is frightening considering how varied the effects are. You might not even notice you have it – or it could kill you. But what if there were a way to help fight COVID, lessening its effects on you?
Israeli scientists have recently conducted a study that finds that there is a way to fight COVID – and it’s with a vitamin we run into every day: vitamin D.
The Initiating Vitamin D Study On COVID-19
In June of 2021, a research team did a study in Galilee Medical Center of 1,176 patients. 253 of these patients had their vitamin D recorded, and half of those patients were vitamin D deficient.
Dr. Amiel Dror, who led the study, is a doctor at the Galilee Medical Center and a researcher at Bar Ilan University. His findings showed that those with vitamin D deficiency were much more likely to die as a result of COVID-19: while only 3% of those with healthy vitamin D levels died from COVID-19, 26% of vitamin D deficient patients passed away.
“We were very interested to see just what a big difference this made, with these patients some 14 times more likely, on average, to end up in severe or critical condition,” said Dr. Dror. (1)
The Implications of Vitamin D Deficiency In The Initial Study
“This study is important because of the results,” Dr. Dror said. “Because of the fact that it uses data from before admission, and also because we were careful to isolate all factors like age and diabetes. We saw that vitamin D deficiency is an independent factor that significantly influences the status of the patient.”
By using data from before the person was admitted to the hospital, the research team was able to make sure vitamin D levels were the factor making the difference between patient groups, and not that the severity of illness resulted in vitamin D deficiency.
“In short, after conducting this study I would say to people that during this pandemic, you certainly want to make sure that you have adequate vitamin D,” says Dr. Dror. If you contract the coronavirus it will help you.” (1)
The Latest Israeli Study On Vitamin D
In a new study at the start of 2022, the research team, which included members of the June 2021 team, looked at vitamin D levels in relation to COVID-19. According to The Times of Israel, “vitamin has such a strong impact on disease severity that they [the research team] can predict how people would fare if infected based on nothing more than their ages and vitamin D levels.”
Dr. Amiel Dror, who returned for this study, says “We found it remarkable, and striking, to see the difference in the chances of becoming a severe patient when you are lacking in vitamin D compared to when you’re not.” (2)
The Science Behind The Vitamin D Study
“What we’re seeing when vitamin D helps people with COVID infections is a result of its effectiveness in bolstering the immune systems to deal with viral pathogens that attack the respiratory system,” says Dr. Dror. The boost to your immune system from vitamin D isn’t just relevant at the time of initial infection. The research team found that vitamin D levels going back for two years before the current hospitalization played a role in the severity of COVID-19.
“Because this study gets such a good picture of patients’ vitamin D levels,” Dr. Dror says, “by looking at a wide timeframe instead of just the time around hospitalization, it offers much stronger support than anything seen so far emphasizing the importance of boosting vitamin D levels during the pandemic.”
Given that many home ‘remedies’ and ‘prevention cures’ have been circulating over the last two years, there are those who are skeptical that vitamin D is really the answer it seems. Dr. Dror cannot disagree enough. “People should learn from this that studies pointing to the importance of taking vitamin D are very reliable, and aren’t based on skewed data,” he says. “It emphasizes the value of everyone taking a vitamin D supplement during the pandemic, which, consumed in sensible amounts in accordance with official advice, doesn’t have any downside.”
Dr. Dror and the research team also stressed that vitamin D is not a vaccine substitute, just an important factor in staying as healthy as possible. (2)
Correlation Between Vitamin D and COVID-19
The 2022 study lists several factors generally associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes: age, being male, obesity, pre-existing health conditions, and skin pigmentation. “ These risk factors,” the study explains, “are also independently associated with vitamin D deficiency.” Perhaps this can explain why vitamin D is so crucial in the survival and wellness of COVID-19 patients. (3)
You may know vitamin D by its nickname: the sunshine vitamin. However, just being outdoors isn’t enough to ensure you’re receiving a healthy dose of vitamin D.
Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health says that although the traditional way to get vitamins is through what you eat, that won’t work for vitamin D. In fact, vitamin D is found in very few foods. Cod liver oil, salmon, and swordfish are three foods that have small amounts of vitamin D. In addition, orange juice and some dairy products are often fortified with vitamin D. The T. H. Chan School actually recommends that people get the necessary amounts of vitamin D through supplements. (4)
Knowing the importance of vitamin D in the fight against COVID-19 is only the first step. How to get enough vitamin D, what supplements to take, and other ways to keep your immune system up are very important. For that, you don’t have to rely on sorting through Google results: Dr. Partha Nandi’s newsletter covers a variety of health topics and has more than enough information to keep you feeling your best.