Sunshine vitamin observed to lower coronavirus risks

Several studies conducted recently by national health organizations observed that people with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to contract COVID-19 and suffer from more severe virus symptoms compared to those who aren’t.

It was also found that the COVID-19 death rate nearly quadruples for those deficient in the “sunshine vitamin.”

According to a recent article published by Medscape, a global medical publication, the odds of dying from COVID-19 for hospitalized patients who were also vitamin D deficient increased by more than threefold.

Dr. Sohail Rao, the president and CEO of Edinburg’s DHR Health Institute for Research & Development, emphasized that the research regarding the link between vitamin D and severe COVID-19 symptoms have only been observational, and trial studies should be conducted.

However, people should add “more time in the sun” to their list of New Year’s resolutions, Rao suggested.

Low levels of vitamin D increases the risk of catching infections and the severity of the infection, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association published in September observed in a testing group of nearly 500 people that the rates of testing positive for COVID-19 was 1.77 greater in those who were vitamin D deficient.

Vitamin D plays a critical role in the regulation of calcium in a person’s blood, which is not only important for healthy bones and teeth, but is also responsible for supporting their immune system.

Rao explained that vitamin D is associated with a person’s ability to fend off infections and regulate inflammatory responses. Low levels of vitamin D can increase activity in the system responsible for controlling blood volume, also known as RAAS — the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.

“This leads to a dramatic immune overreaction when a patient is confronted with a severe COVID-19 infection,” Rao said.

One of COVID-19’s most deadly attacks is initiating intense inflammation episodes, which is why shortness of breath is among the first signs of the disease. Vitamin D is essential in supporting healthy immune, brain and nervous systems, supporting lung function and strong blood flow, and protection from several diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes.

“So if a patient has deficiency of vitamin D, and in the case they are confronted with the coronavirus, their immune system will not be able to raise a prominent or dominant response,” Rao said.

According to a July study published by the NIH, almost half of the people in the world have vitamin D insufficiency — low levels were 35% higher in people who were obese.

The physician does not recommend vitamin D supplements to the community, unless they are instructed by a professional. Though vitamin D can be found in many foods, such as fatty fish, egg yolks and mushrooms, he said the best source of it is found outside: the sun.

“Go outside, go for a walk, go for a run or just sit outside and catch some sunlight,” Rao said.

Last week, the employees of the city of Roma announced they were partaking in an initiative to raise vitamin D levels to mitigate COVID-19 symptoms.

Led by Dr. Raymond Mussett, a Roma-based family medicine doctor, and Dr. Jeff Gusky, a board-certified emergency physician and fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the initiative prompts city employees to take daily doses of vitamin D3.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Dr. Raymond Mussett’s name.