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Vitamin D linked to low coronavirus death rate

Anglia Ruskin University

Vitamin D

A new study has found an association between low average levels of vitamin D and high numbers of COVID-19 cases and mortality rates across 20 European countries.


For more details of this new research study - which is open-access, see:

This research group has already flagged the importance of adequate Vitamin D status for fighting viral infections such as influenza and COVID-19. See the recent news article:

And for their free report documenting the very poor Vitamin D status of older adults in Ireland, see:

There is a very clear and urgent need for Public Health authorities to do more to ensure adequate Vitamin D status in the general population.

However, it is also very striking that most of those most vulnerable to severe forms of COVID-19 - including older adults, people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, and people with obesity - are already well-known to be at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency, so particular attention needs to be focused on improving Vitamin D status in these groups.

For more information on the importance of Vitamin D for mental as well as physical health, please see the following lists, which are regiularly updated.

07/05/2020 - Medical Express

The research, led by Dr. Lee Smith of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and Mr Petre Cristian Ilie, lead urologist of Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust, is published in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research.

Previous observational studies have reported an association between low levels of vitamin D and susceptibility to acute respiratory tract infections. Vitamin D modulates the response of white blood cells, preventing them from releasing too many inflammatory cytokines. The COVID-19 virus is known to cause an excess of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Italy and Spain have both experienced high COVID-19 mortality rates, and the new study shows that both countries have lower average vitamin D levels than most northern European countries. This is partly because people in southern Europe, particularly the elderly, avoid strong sun, while skin pigmentation also reduces natural vitamin D synthesis.

The highest average levels of vitamin D are found in northern Europe, due to the consumption of cod liver oil and vitamin D supplements, and possibly less sun avoidance. Scandinavian nations are among the countries with the lowest number of COVID-19 cases and mortality rates per head of population in Europe.

Dr. Lee Smith, Reader in Physical Activity and Public Health at Anglia Ruskin University, said: "We found a significant crude relationship between average vitamin D levels and the number COVID-19 cases, and particularly COVID-19 mortality rates, per head of population across the 20 European countries.

"Vitamin D has been shown to protect against acute respiratory infections, and older adults, the group most deficient in vitamin D, are also the ones most seriously affected by COVID-19.

"A previous study found that 75% of people in institutions, such as hospitals and care homes, were severely deficient in vitamin D. We suggest it would be advisable to perform dedicated studies looking at vitamin D levels in COVID-19 patients with different degrees of disease severity."

Mr Petre Cristian Ilie, lead urologist of Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Our study does have limitations however, not least because the number of cases in each country is affected by the number of tests performed, as well as the different measures taken by each country to prevent the spread of infection. Finally, and importantly, one must remember correlation does not necessarily mean causation."