Does Vitamin D protect against COVID-19?

In a Nutshell

  • There is no evidence that Vitamin D is protective or preventive against COVID-19
  • So far there is no proven therapy, drug, or vaccine that can protect against COVID-19
  • Social distancing and protective facial masks are the only ways to minimize your risk of contracting this virus.

Vitamin D & COVID-19

It was speculated that individuals who are deficient in Vitamin D are at higher risk of developing COVID-19 infection. Healthcare professionals also suggested that Vitamin D deficient individuals develop a more serious infection that is associated with increased morbidity (longer hospital stays) and a higher mortality rate.

The background of these claims revolves around the historic data, as it has been noted that Vitamin D deficient individuals have compromised immunity that makes them vulnerable to seasonal or respiratory infections. In addition

  • Parts of Northern Italy and Spain that have reported the highest number of COVID-19 infection (along with very high mortality), reportedly have a high rate of Vitamin D deficiency among native population. Although these countries receive a lot of sunlight, but none of these counties fortify their food with Vitamin D (explaining the high rate of Vitamin D deficiency).
  • On the contrary, Nordic countries like Sweden, Finland, and Norway fortify their food with Vitamin D, which is why the rate of Vitamin D deficiency is much lower despite low sunlight exposure. It was reported that the number of cases and death rate in Nordic countries due to COVID-19 was much lower.

Researchers analyzed the data from other countries to study the relationship between Vitamin D levels, Vitamin D supplementation and outcomes in COVID-19 infected individuals.

Our Verdict

Based on the results and inferences drawn from 5 observational studies that were conducted and/or published prior to June 18th, 2020, it has been reported that:

  • Vitamin D supplementation does not confer any immunity against COVID-19
  • Vitamin D intake does not support respiratory health or protect against any acute respiratory tract infections.
  • Supplemental doses of Vitamin D to COVID-19 infected patients does not speed up recovery or improve morbidity.

It is highly recommended to maintain steady Vitamin D levels for optimal musculoskeletal health. US National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend all adults (especially elderly over the age of 70 years) to consume Vitamin D supplements in moderate doses (i.e. 400 – 800 IU/ day). Besides elderly, individuals who are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency such as individuals who are suffering from chronic liver, pancreas or bowel diseases should also consider Vitamin D supplementation to alleviate the risk of Vitamin D deficiency as a result of lockdown/ lower sunlight exposure.

Nuances/ Safety

Healthcare providers recommend susceptible individuals to take Vitamin D supplementation during this pandemic as more people are spending time indoors, which may increase their risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency and consequently musculoskeletal issues.

Strength of Evidence: D

Currently, there is no evidence that Vitamin D supplementation can prevent COVID-19 infection or therapy with Vitamin D can improve the outcome in case of active infection.

Our Ruling:

Although, several research studies have provided statistical evidence of immune boosting effects of Vitamin D, the current data, research and literature suggests that Vitamin D supplementation is not protective against COVID-19, as reported by renowned institutions like National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Medscape Medical News.

The best ways to prevent COVID-19 are widely known. Practice social distancing when outdoors. Avoid closed, congested spaces and crowds. Make sure to use a facial mask when you are outdoor. Also, if you suspect being exposed to virus, isolate yourself for 14 days and avoid contact with friends and family until you are sure that you are free from infection.

Our Sources:

  1. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/933090
  2. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/930152
  3. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/930660
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How we grade evidence?

Learn more about it here.