You may have missed it, but last week UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said his government was recommending vitamin D supplements as a protective measure against the coronavirus.
But most of the attention has been focused on Mr Hancock’s stumbles on the matter. For a moment he dismissed the usefulness of vitamin D, saying there was no strong evidence that it worked.
The next day he was touting it as a go-to prophylactic because the evidence was pretty good, after all.
There have certainly been quite a few comments on the matter.
So what is the proof?
A letter published three weeks ago in the British medical journal of an Australian doctor tells the story; more than 30 studies have shown “that having optimal blood levels of (vitamin D) reduces the risk of COVID-19: reduced risk of infection; reduced risk of serious illness; reduced risk of dying ”.
The physician, Peter J. Lewis, a general practitioner from NSW with a particular interest in integrative medicine, noted that “many researchers now consider the evidence to be overwhelming.”
“Despite this, there will always be those who say we need ‘more research’, but in the meantime there is little to lose … and a huge amount to be gained by recommending a decent daily dose of vitamin D3” for children and adults.
A comment posted in Lancet in August, made the same point – while exposing the long history of vitamin D’s perceived potential as a treatment for respiratory disease. It goes back almost 90 years.
New evidence from Spain
In a study based at the Universitario Marqués de Valdecilla hospital, 216 COVID-19 patients had their vitamin D levels. More than 80 percent had vitamin D deficiency.
On average, men had lower vitamin D levels than women.
OK, you could say, in the age of sun phobia, a lot of people are deficient in vitamin D. Where does that compare to the general population?
There wasn’t one … but doctors found that patients with lower vitamin D levels also had elevated serum levels of inflammatory markers such as ferritin and D-dimer.
Inflammation is the destructive characteristic of COVID-19, manifesting itself from the tips of the toes to the lining of blood vessels, lungs and deep in the brain.
Study co-author Dr José L. Hernández, University of Cantabria, observed: “Vitamin D is a hormone produced by the kidneys that controls the concentration of calcium in the blood and affects the system. immune.
“Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a variety of health problems, although research is still being done on why the hormone affects other systems in the body. Numerous studies highlight the beneficial effect of vitamin D on the immune system, especially with regard to protection against infections.
He concludes: “Vitamin D treatment should be recommended in patients with COVID-19 with low levels of vitamin D circulating in the blood, as this approach could have beneficial effects on the musculoskeletal and immune system.
He notes that the supplements are particularly important for “people at high risk such as the elderly, patients with co-morbidities and residents of nursing homes, who are the main target population of COVID-19.”
For a technical explanation of why vitamin D might work against COVID-19, see here.