Early in the pandemic, it became clear that there was a link between COVID deaths and vitamin D deficiency. Now we’re getting some evidence that vitamin D could possibly play a role in treating the disease – evidence just published in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Through a variety of screening methods, an international research team found that active forms of vitamin D can inhibit SARS-CoV-2. More, they found that a particular compound in the vitamin D family, lumisterol, actually works to block COVID by blocking two enzymes that are critical for the virus’ life cycle.
This, the researchers say, may explain the association between low D levels and poor COVID outcomes. “A plethora of reports,” they write,
strongly suggests [sic] that vitamin D plays a vital role in protection against SARS-COV-2, which includes preventing infected patients from developing severe disease. Here, we report for the first time that a range of vitamin D3-related compounds, including 7-DHC and L3 hydroxyderivaties, display anti-SARS-CoV-2 activities and we provide a possible target on which they may act directly. Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 are clearly a major advance in controlling COVID-19; however, new viral variants emphasize the need for alternative therapeutic approaches. This study presents novel vitamin D and L3 metabolites as candidates for antiviral drugs.
That’s certainly promising. However, it shouldn’t be taken to suggest that if you have COVID, simply increasing your D levels – through sun exposure, diet, or supplements – could be considered appropriate treatment.
But according to another just-published study, increasing your sun exposure just might help lower your risk of severe COVID.
In this case, researchers analyzed data drawn from more than 400,000 individuals to find possible links between vitamin D variables and the risk of infection, hospitalization, and death due to SARS-CoV-2. They assessed each person’s exposure to UVB radiation from sunlight, as well as calculated their genetically-predicted exposure. These were then compared to COVID outcomes.
Researchers found that ambient UVB radiation at an individual’s place of residence preceding COVID-19 infection was strongly and inversely associated with hospitalisation and death. This suggests that vitamin D may protect against severe COVID-19 disease and death.
“Our study adds further evidence that vitamin D might protect against severe COVID-19 infection,” said senior researcher Lina Zgaga.
Conducting a properly designed COVID-19 randomised controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation is critical. Until then, given that vitamin D supplements are safe and cheap, it is definitely advisable to take supplements and protect against vitamin D deficiency, particularly with winter on the horizon.
Of course, we in Southern California have less trouble with getting enough natural sunlight even in the dead of winter than those in Ireland and the UK, where most members of the research team are based. And that’s the best “delivery system” for vitamin D you can get. Here’s how it works: