Even if you are a golfer and live in Hawaii, you should have your vitamin D level checked. It is astonishing how many people are deficient—even before the COVID lockdowns.
A Dec 11 article in Internal Medicine News is titled: “Vitamin D deficiency in COVID-19 quadrupled death rate.” A study by Dr. Dieter De Smet and colleagues from AZ Delta General Hospital, Roeselare, Belgium, looked at 186 patients hospitalized early in the pandemic, in March 2020, with severe acute respiratory syndrome and confirmed COVID-19.
Almost 60 percent of patients, 47 percent of women and 67 percent of men, were vitamin D deficient on admission (a level of 25(OH)D <20 ng/mL). The deficiency was worst in men with the most severe pneumonia. The correlation of vitamin D deficiency with death, with an odds ratio of 3.87, was independent of age or comorbidities.
The report, published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology, notes that studies involving hundreds to thousands of individuals in the U.S. and Israel showed an association between prior vitamin D deficiency and the possibility of a positive PCR test. Studies involving tens to hundreds of patients in Iran, Germany, Israel, Spain, China, and the UK reported correlations between low vitamin D levels and intensive care unit (ICU) admission, ventilator dependency, and death.
Beside its role in calcium metabolism, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D stimulates defenses against pathogen invasion of the respiratory tract and inhibits the destructive “cytokine storm.” Deficiency has been associated with more frequent viral respiratory infections and asthma attacks.
More than a billion people worldwide are deficient, Dr. DeSmet writes.
About 20 minutes of daily sun exposure to a large area of skin, between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., is needed to make enough vitamin D. Darker-skinned individuals need more. As the weather cools, vitamin D levels will be dropping—note that “flu season” happens when vitamin D levels are depleted after winter sun deprivation. Adults may need 4,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 supplements daily.
More than 90 percent of nursing home patients are reportedly vitamin D deficient. This might help explain why they account for around half of COVID deaths though they represent less than 1 percent of the population. Does supplementation help? In a French nursing home, COVID survival in patients who had recently received an oral bolus of 80,000 IU of vitamin D3 was 82 percent, compared with 44 percent in those who had not (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.11, P = 0.003—see figure below).