There’s new evidence vitamin D may help treat COVID-19 by reducing the severity of infection

  • A small new study has found that coronavirus patients who took calcifediol, a potent, metabolite form of vitamin D, were less like to be admitted to the ICU, and none died. 
  • This is supported by previous evidence that getting enough vitamin D could be protective against severe cases of COVID-19.
  • However, it's not clear whether supplements benefit people who already get enough vitamin D, and how other risk factors play a role, so more research is needed. 
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There's new evidence that a dose of vitamin D could improve treatment outcomes for coronavirus patients, according to a small study published in the October issue of the The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Researchers from the University of Córdoba, Spain, studied 76 patients admitted to Reina Sofia University Hospital for COVID-19. All of the patients received the best treatment available, but 50 patients were randomly assigned to also received calcifediol, a metabolized form of vitamin D3 that can quickly increase vitamin D levels in patients. 

The study found that patients who took calcifediol were significantly less likely to need intensive care, and none of them died. Of the control group of 26 patients that did not receive the supplement, 13 were admitted to the intensive care unit, and 2 died. 

That suggests that calcifediol (three doses, in this study — .532 mg on day one, .266 mg on days three and seven) could reduce the severity of COVID-19 infection and lower the risk of complications, the researchers said. 

"Calcifediol seems to be able to reduce severity of the disease, but larger trials with groups properly matched will be required to show a definitive answer," they concluded. 

It's not clear whether regular doses of vitamin D would do the trick

One limitation of the study, however, is that, while patients were randomly assigned to receive calcifediol, there were more patients in the control group with high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which are risk factors for severe coronavirus complications. These could in part explain why that group was more likely to have poor outcomes. 

It's not clear whether calcifediol is more effective than other forms of vitamin D supplementation for potentially staving off severe COVID-19. Calcifediol is significantly more potent, and more easily absorbed, than other forms of vitamin D, which could make it more effective in patients with illness or digestive distress. 

The researchers also did not assess whether patients were deficient in vitamin D before the treatment. Other research has found it's common for adults in early spring to be vitamin D deficiency, due to a lack of access to sunlight, a natural source of vitamin D. 

That could be important, since it's not clear whether vitamin D supplements work by fixing a nutritional deficiency, or if patients who already have sufficient vitamin D levels could benefit from taking more. 

Previous studies have linked vitamin D deficiency and coronavirus risk

This study is the first of its kind to suggest vitamin D supplementation could cause less severe COVID-19.

Previously, a growing body of research has found evidence that getting enough vitamin D is associated with better coronavirus outcomes. Multiple studies have found an association between vitamin D levels and coronavirus outcomes, although they did not establish a causal link. 

A study published last month found that patients with sufficient vitamin D were significantly less likely to face dangerous complications of coronavirus, such as difficulty breathing or unconsciousness. And another small study found people with a vitamin D deficiency were twice as likely to be infected with coronavirus in the first place. 

At least one study found no apparent connection between the nutrient and the virus, however. And it's well-documented that large doses of vitamin D aren't a cure-all for this or any other illness, and can in fact have serious side effects. 

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