Gulf Today Report
In a growing list of studies on vitamin D and its link with COVID-19 disease, British researchers have found an association between low average levels of vitamin D and high numbers of COVID-19 cases and mortality rates across 20 European countries.
Previous observational studies have reported an association between low levels of vitamin D and susceptibility to acute respiratory tract infections.
"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," said study researcher Dr Lee Smith from Anglia Ruskin University in the UK.
According to the researchers, 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, published in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 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 the 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.
"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," Smith said.
"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," Smith added.
Another study, published last month in the journal Nutrients, suggested that supplements containing vitamins C and D and other micronutrients are a safe, effective and low-cost means of helping your immune system fight off COVID-19 and other acute respiratory tract diseases.
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