Israeli scientists say they have accumulated the most convincing evidence so far that taking vitamin D supplements can help COVID-19 patients reduce the risk of serious illness or death.
The peer-reviewed study published Thursday in the journal PLOS is based on research conducted during Israel’s first two waves of the virus before vaccines became available, the Times of Israel reported.
The researchers from Bar Ilan University and the Galilee Medical Center said the impact was so strong that they could predict how infected people would fare based on only their ages and vitamin D levels.
“We found it remarkable, and striking, to see the difference in the chances of becoming a severe patient when you are lacking in vitamin D compared to when you’re not,” said Dr. Amiel Dror, a Galilee Medical Center physician and Bar Ilan researcher.
He said vitamin D strengthens the immune systems “to deal with viral pathogens that attack the respiratory system.”
“This is equally relevant for Omicron as it was for previous variants,” he told the Times of Israel.
The researchers published preliminary findings in June that showed 26% of coronavirus patients died if they were vitamin D deficient soon before hospitalization. That compared to 3% who had normal levels of vitamin D.
And hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were vitamin D deficient were 14 times more likely than others to end up in severe or critical condition.
Dror said his team addressed the question in the scientific community of whether recent health conditions among the patients might have been skewed the results. In other words, was vitamin deficiency a symptom rather than a contributing factor?
To account for that possibility, the researchers examined each patient’s vitamin D levels over the two-year period prior coronavirus infection.
“We checked a range of timeframes, and found that wherever you look over the two years before infection, the correlation between vitamin D and disease severity is extremely strong,” Dror said.
Because of its wide scope, he added, the study offers “stronger support than anything seen so far emphasizing the importance of boosting vitamin D levels during the pandemic.”