Recent studies have spoken to the connection between Vitamin D and COVID:
- The fatality rate for COVID-19 is high in vitamin D deficient patients (21% vs 3.1%).
- Vitamin D levels in severe Covid-19 patients are markedly low.
This has led to a 51.2 percent increase in overall vitamin sales as COVID-19 spread, but there is not much evidence to support the efficacy of this. In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial involving 2407 hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19, a single dose of 200,000 IU of vitamin D38 supplementation had no effect on hospital stays or deaths.
An estimated one billion people worldwide are either vitamin D insufficient or deficient. Deficiency results in bone-softening diseases. For older people with osteoporosis, taking vitamin D with calcium may help prevent hip fractures. Athletes who are vitamin D deficient are at an increased risk of stress fractures and/or bone breaks. People with unhealthy Body Mass Index (BMI) often suffer from vitamin D deficiency.
One study found that “the poor health and average early death of the socio-economically disadvantaged in the UK, together with the widening social gap of health, can be explained by relative deficiency of vitamin D.” Estimates have found 84% of Non-Hispanic Blacks were insufficient in vitamin D vs 56% of Hispanics and 35% of Non-Hispanic Whites. Similar studies have found the same results and many authors have concluded that giving socio-economically disadvantaged people vitamin D supplements will solve the issue. It is a simplistic approach that fails to recognize Vitamin D deficiency to be an indicator of general health. For example, excessive alcohol consumption has a negative impact on vitamin D status. Giving alcoholics daily vitamin D supplements would hardly be the correct intervention, because it doesn’t address the patient’s overall health compromises.
Supplements are unable to compensate for an unhealthy lifestyle, unbalanced diet, or other lifestyle habits that are not conducive to health. Also, when taking one type of vitamin, without other vitamins or minerals to help with absorption, you are getting minimal health impact as most of the vitamin will be expelled in the urine. Also, vitamins are not sourced equally and there can be great variation in the purity, age, and general quality when purchasing vitamins. Most nutritionists would probably advise that the best source of vitamins and nutrients would be from a well-balanced diet. A healthy lifestyle that is achieved through going outside and getting fresh air, regular exercise, and a diet rich in nutrients and vitamins will naturally elevate vitamin D. In most conditions for which Vitamin D deficiency is correlated, Vitamin D is an indicator of individual health, not a causal agent.
Vitamin D articles and consumption have become popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet there is no evidence that temporarily taking Vitamin D will be able to compensate for an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle. There is evidence that supports the idea that healthy people (in America this means wealthier, whiter, thinner and without other health conditions) will have better outcomes when exposed to a viral illness. Vitamin D deficiency can be reframed as a marker of general health and when a person has a deficiency, they might want to take an overall mental inventory of their general health, before simply ordering a vitamin, popping a pill daily, and expecting a general health improvement.