Can vitamin D supplement lower COVID-19 risk? Well, it is a fact that vitamin D is important for the normal functioning of our immune system among other things. But is there scientific proof that vitamin D may protect against novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19? 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.
- Vitamin D works to tighten the junctions between the cells to keep the integrity of the mucous membranes (1).
- Vitamin D stimulates the production of a substance called CAMP – Cathelicidin AntiMicrobial Peptide (1, 2) by the immune cells which helps to kill invading viruses, bacteria, fungi.
- Vitamin D directly regulates the function of T and B lymphocytes (1, 2, 3)
Now you understand how vitamin D can boost up your immune system to fight off the invading viruses including novel coronavirus. What is even more interesting is the fact that vitamin D also down-regulates the cells of the immune system that cause inflammation. In this way, vitamin D helps to prevent excessive inflammation – the Cytokine Storm – which is the main cause of mortality in COVID-19 patients.
Evidence that Vitamin D may reduce your risk of getting COVID-19:
Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, scientists have been curious about the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and the risk of COVID-19. Several studies now exist that show a high risk of COVID-19 if you are low in vitamin D.
For example, researchers looked at COVID-19 test results in relation to vitamin D levels in the US between mid-March through mid-June 2020. The findings are an eye-opener.
A total of 191,779 individuals were included. The COVID-19 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. I have been recommending an optimal level of vitamin D of 50-100 ng/ml for at least fifteen years, based on my vast clinical experience of treating thousands of patients with vitamin D deficiency (5).
Evidence that Vitamin D may reduce your risk of dying from COVID-19:
A large 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.
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).
In another study from Tehran University, Iran, researchers discovered the rate of mortality from COVID-19 was 20% in patients whose blood level of vitamin D was less than 30 ng/mL whereas only 9.7% died who had a blood level of vitamin D of at least 30 ng/mL (7). In addition, 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-19. These researchers also found that patients whose vitamin D level was more than 30 ng/mL had a significant reduction in serum CRP – a marker for inflammation – along with increased lymphocytes percentage. These findings suggest that sufficient vitamin D level may reduce the risk for cytokine storm – a common cause of death in COVID-19 patients.
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. After its synthesis in the skin, vitamin D gets in the blood stream and reaches the rest of the body. Sunscreens, clothing and shades interfere with this natural process of vitamin D formation. For these reason, there is a pandemic of vitamin D deficiency.
Food contain very small amounts of Vitamin D. 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 (8). 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 sufficiency range of more than 30 ng/ml. It recommends using 4000 IU to 10,000 IU per day to treat vitamin D deficiency (9).
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-19?
A task force of vitamin D experts got together and gave their recommendations on the dose of vitamin D during this pandemic of Coronavirus. They advise taking a vitamin D supplement 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. (10)
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. I have not encountered any case of vitamin D toxicity during this extensive clinical experience with high doses of vitamin D (5).
Vitamin D should be taken with vitamin K2, because these two vitamins reinforce each other’s actions.
Vitamin D deficiency increases your risk of catching COVID-19. But you may be able to lower your risk by taking vitamin D supplement in doses of 5000-10,000 IU per day.
Vitamin D should preferably be taken in combination with Vitamin K2 as these two vitamins reinforce each other’s actions. Learn more about Vitamin D3 with K2……
- 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.
- 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