Can vitamin D supplement lower COVID risk? Well, it is a medical fact that vitamin D is important for the normal functioning of our immune system. But is there scientific proof that vitamin D may protect against COVID? Before we plunge into that, let me explain how our natural ability to fight off infections works.
What is immunity and how it works?
Our body is well-equipped to fight off infections naturally. This is called our immunity.
There are three types of immunity:
- Local barriers such as integrity of the skin, mucus membrane, production of mucus, etc.
- Innate Immunity – Immune mechanisms that we are born with. It primarily consists of various types of immune cells that directly kill viruses, bacteria, fungi.
- Acquired Immunity – which we acquire through exposure to infections and vaccines. It primarily consists of special immune cells – T and B lymphocytes – which keep a memory of the viruses or bacteria from a previous exposure. These immune cells are ready to launch an attack once they recognize the invader from the past.
How Does Vitamin D help fight off infections?
Research shows vitamin D regulates all three types of immunity.
- It works to tighten the junctions between the cells. In this way, it keep the integrity of the mucous membranes.1
- Vitamin D stimulates the production of a substance called CAMP – Cathelicidin AntiMicrobial Peptide by the immune cells. This natyral chemical helps to kill viruses, bacteria, and fungi.2
- In addition, Vitamin D is important for the normal functioning of our lymphocytes.3
Now you understand how vitamin D can boost up your immune system to fight off the invading viruses including novel coronavirus that causes COVID. What is even more impressive is the fact that vitamin D also prevents excessive inflammation. In this way, vitamin D helps to prevent the Cytokine Storm which is the main cause of mortality in COVID patients.
Evidence that Vitamin D may reduce your risk of getting COVID:
Mounting scientific evidence shows that you have a high risk of COVID if you are low in vitamin D.
For example, researchers looked at COVID test results and vitamin D levels in the US between mid-March through mid-June 2020. Their findings are an eye-opener.
This study consisted of a large number – 191,779 – of individuals. The COVID test was positive in 12.5% of people whose vitamin D level was less than 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L). But the test was positive in only 5.9% of people whose vitamin D level was more than 50 ng/mL ( 125 nmol/L) (4). In other words, the risk of getting COVID-19 was about 50% lower in individuals whose vitamin D level was 55 ng/ml or more, in comparison to people whose vitamin D level was less than 20 ng/ml.
This large-scale study confirms that the optimal level of Vitamin D is more than 50 ng/ml. This is the level that I have been recommending for at least fifteen years, based on my own clinical experience of treating thousands of patients with vitamin D deficiency.5
Evidence that Vitamin D may reduce your risk of dying from COVID:
A number of excellent studies have been conducted in the hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19. Many of these studies have found that vitamin D deficiency clearly increases your risk of dying from COVID-19.
Scientific evidence from the USA
For example, researchers from Northwestern University showed a strong correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and mortality from COVID-19. According to this study, your risk of dying from COVID-19 doubles if you have vitamin D deficiency.6
Study from Iran
In another study (from Tehran University, Iran), researchers discovered the rate of mortality from COVID-19 was 20% if level of vitamin D was less than 30 ng/m. On the other hand, mortality rate was only 9.7% if vitamin D level was at least 30 ng/mL (7). Moreover, only 6.3% of the patients died with a blood level of vitamin D of 40 ng/mL or higher. In other words, the higher the level of Vitamin D, the lower the risk of dying from COVID.
Evidence from Spain
An excellent placebo-control study from Spain investigated if Vitamin D supplement could prevent admission to ICU and death in COVID -19 patients.8
The study included 76 patients with COVID-19 admitted to the hospital. Patients were divided into two groups: Vitamin D group or placebo. Vitamin D was given as 106, 400 IU on admission, then continued with 53, 200 IU on day 3 and 7, and then weekly until discharge or ICU admission. In addition, all patients received the usual standard care.
The researchers looked at the rate of ICU admission and deaths in the vitamin D group versus the placebo group.
The results were amazing: Only 2% of patients in the Vitamin D group required ICU admission compared to 50% in the placebo group. In other words, Vitamin D supplementation reduced the need for ICU admission by an impressive 98% .
No one died in the Vitamin D group, whereas 2 died in the placebo group.
A Pandemic of Vitamin D deficiency:
Sun is the main natural source of vitamin D. When UVB – ultraviolet B – sun rays strike the naked skin, formation of vitamin D starts. Afterwards, vitamin D gets in the blood stream and reaches the rest of the body. However, sunscreens, clothing and shades interfere with this natural process of vitamin D formation. For these reason, there is a pandemic of vitamin D deficiency all around the world.
Just to be clear, food contain very small amounts of Vitamin D. That’s why you cannot rely on food items to raise your vitamin D level into the optimal range of 50-100 ng/ml.
How to raise Your Vitamin D level into the Optimal Range:
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 400-800 IU as a daily dose of vitamin D.9 However, most experts, including the Endocrine Society – a prestigious organization of Endocrinologists – believe this is too small of a dose to raise vitamin D level into the range of more than 30 ng/ml. It recommends using 4000 IU to 10,000 IU per day to treat vitamin D deficiency.10
The most practical way to get your vitamin D level above 30 ng/ml – and preferably into the optimal range of 50-100 ng/ml – is to take vitamin D supplements.
What Dose of Vitamin D Supplement to Lower Your Risk of COVID?
A task force of vitamin D experts got together and gave their recommendations on the dose of vitamin D during this pandemic of Coronavirus. Their advice is to take a vitamin D supplement in a dose of 10,000 IU per day for a few weeks to rapidly raise vitamin D level above 40-60 ng/mL . Then continue taking 5000 IU/ per day.11
I recommend a daily dose of vitamin D supplement as 5000 IU per 100 Lbs. body weight, based on treating thousands of patients over a fifteen-year period. Just to clarify, I have not encountered any case of vitamin D toxicity.
Vitamin D should be taken with vitamin K2, because these two vitamins reinforce each other’s actions.
Learn more about Vitamin D3 with K2……
Vitamin D deficiency increases your risk of catching COVID and dying from it. But you may be able to lower your risk by taking vitamin D supplement in doses of 5000-10,000 IU per day.
- Mariangela Rondanelli 1, Alessandra Miccono 1, Silvia Lamburghini 1, Ilaria Avanzato 1, Antonella Riva 2, Pietro Allegrini 2, Milena Anna Faliva 1, Gabriella Peroni 1, Mara Nichetti 1, Simone Perna 1. Self-Care for Common Colds: The Pivotal Role of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea in Three Main Immune Interactive Clusters (Physical Barriers, Innate and Adaptive Immunity) Involved during an Episode of Common Colds-Practical Advice on Dosages and on the Time to Take These Nutrients/Botanicals in order to Prevent or Treat Common Colds.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018 Apr 29;2018
- Human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP) gene is a direct target of the vitamin D receptor and is strongly up-regulated in myeloid cells by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. FASEB J. 2005 Jul;19(9):1067-77
- Cynthia Aranow Vitamin D and the immune system. J Investig Med. 2011 Aug;59(6):881-6.
- Marta Entrenas Castillo,a Luis Manuel Entrenas Costa,a,* et al. “Effect of calcifediol treatment and best available therapy versus best available therapy on intensive care unit admission and mortality among patients hospitalized for COVID-19: A pilot randomized clinical study.” J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2020 Oct; 203: 105751.
- William B. Grant,1,* Henry Lahore,2 Sharon L. McDonnell,3 Carole A. Baggerly,3 Christine B. French,3 Jennifer L. Aliano,3 and Harjit P. Bhattoa4Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths. Nutrients. 2020 Apr; 12(4): 988