adequate levels of vitamin D provide significant protection against serious illness and death from COVID

A new Israeli study points to a highly effective way to prevent serious disease and death from COVID. And, yes, it starts with a V.

It starts with a V, as in Vitamin D, that is.

An important recent meta-analysis and systematic review of 14 studies of 91,120 people found that people with insufficient levels of vitamin D are 80% more likely to get COVID.

Now a game changing Israeli study has shown that vitamin D is vital for preventing serious illness and death from COVID.

The study was unique because it did not measure vitamin D levels when people entered the hospital with COVID. Instead, it used their vitamin D levels taken from blood tests before they became infected or entered the hospital. In this way, they were uniquely able to show the ability of levels of vitamin D to affect severity of COVID illness.

Among the people admitted to hospital for COVID during the study, the researchers had vitamin D levels for 253 of them. They could use those 253 hospitalized patients to see what effect vitamin D levels had on disease severity.

The optimal level of 25(OH)D, or vitamin D, is 50-80 ng/ml. Blood levels below 25 ng/ml indicate a vitamin D deficiency and below 20 ng/ml indicate a severe deficiency.

When it came to hospital admission, 52.5% of people had vitamin D levels below 20 ng/ml. That is, more than half of people hospitalized with COVID were severely deficient in vitamin D. A further 14.2% of them had deficient levels between 20-30 ng/ml. 17.3% were between 30-40 ng/ml. Only 15.8% had levels above 40 ng/ml. That means that 84% of people hospitalized for COVID were deficient in vitamin D. The real number may actually be worse because 40 ng/ml is still below optimal levels.

As for severity, lower vitamin D was significantly more common in people with severe or critical disease than in people with mild or moderate disease, showing that low vitamin D is predictive of more severe illness. 87.4% of people with severe or critical disease were below 20 ng/ml versus 34.3% with mild to moderate disease.

As for mortality, people with sufficient levels of vitamin D, which seemed to be only 30-40 ng/ml in this study, had a 2.3% mortality rate compared to a significantly higher 25.6% rate of dying in the vitamin D deficient group. Since the researchers seemed to have used “sufficient” as 30-40 ng/ml instead of optimal (over 50 ng/ml) the difference may be even greater.

When the results were adjusted for “confounding factors,” people with vitamin D deficiency were 14 times more likely to have severe or critical disease than people with vitamin D levels above 40 ng/ml (again, not optimal). And, the lower the vitamin D, the more severe the disease: 8.8% of the mild group had vitamin D levels below 20 ng/ml compared to 58.1% in the moderate group and 86.5% in the severe group. Though being older is a risk factor for disease severity, being low in vitamin D was associated with a significantly greater risk of severity in all age groups.

This study strongly suggests that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D provides significant protection, which the researchers called “remarkable and striking” in an interview, from serious disease and death from COVID.


PLOS One February 3, 2022;doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0263069


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