Vitamin D determines severity of COVID-19 – researchers call on government to change health advice.
Vitamin D is highly likely to reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and death rates, according to new research from Trinity College Dublin.
People in sunny climates have lower levels of vitamin D and higher rates of vitamin D deficiency, the research shows, despite the fact that our bodies make the vitamin in response to sunlight. Vitamin D can support the immune system and plays an important role in fighting viral infections. Researchers believe this is due to its influence over our bodies’ cytokine response, which causes the severe consequences of COVID-19.
The Irish research team compared infection and death rates from COVID-19 with data on vitamin D levels of various European countries. They found that the countries with higher rates of vitamin D deficiency had higher rates of infection and death.
They also noted that regions with sunnier climates had higher rates of vitamin D deficiency. This may be because countries in colder climates, such as Norway, Finland and Sweden, are more likely to use supplements or have foods fortified with vitamin D.
The researchers are calling on the Irish government to update health guidelines around vitamin D intake. They say this will have broad health benefits, as well as potentially reducing the severity of COVID-19 infections and death rates in that country.
The Irish research is supported by a study at the Anglia Ruskin University in the UK, which noted the association between low levels of vitamin D and high rates of infection and death from COVID-19 in European countries.
Health bodies in the UK have already increased the recommended intake of vitamin D since the coronavirus outbreak.
As we head into winter, maintaining a healthy level of vitamin D is especially important.
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