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Vitamin D could be a piece of COVID-19’s ‘complex puzzle,’ Israeli scientists say, after a new study finds a link between deficiency and severe illness

Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce 

Feb 7, 2022, 8:51 AM

  • Low levels of vitamin D prior to catching COVID-19 were linked to worse illness, a study found.
  • Vitamin D helps bolster the immune system to tackle viruses that attack the lungs, researchers said.
  • Vitamin D is “one piece of the complex puzzle” underlying severe COVID-19, the scientists cautioned.


Israeli scientists said they found “striking” differences in the chances of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 when they compared patients who had sufficient vitamin D levels prior to contracting the disease with those who didn’t.

A study published on Thursday in the research journal PLOS One found that about half of people who were vitamin D deficient before getting COVID-19 developed severe illness, compared to less than 10% of people who had sufficient levels of the vitamin in their blood.

We know vitamin D is vital for bone health, but its role in protecting against severe COVID-19 is less well established.

The latest research was the first to examine vitamin D levels in people prior to them contracting COVID-19, the study authors said.

The research doesn’t prove that vitamin D protects against COVID-19 and isn’t a green light to avoid vaccines and take vitamins instead. Vaccines cut the risk of Omicron hospitalization, particularly after a booster, by up to 90%, the UK Health Security Agency said.

Most vitamin D comes from direct sunlight on the skin. It’s also found in foods such as fatty fish, mushrooms, and egg yolks and in supplements.

Vitamin D levels of more than 20 nanograms per milliliter are considered sufficient for most people, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which is the benchmark used by the researchers from Bar-Ilan University and Galilee Medical Center.

Research compiled before the emergence of COVID-19 and published in The Lancet found that vitamin D cut the risk of other respiratory infections, compared with dummy drugs.

But for COVID-19, early findings have been inconsistent: Some studies have found a link between low vitamin D levels and severe COVID-19, while others have concluded that the vitamin wasn’t protective.

It wasn’t clear — even from those studies with results showing a positive correlation between low vitamin D levels and severe COVID-19 — if depleted vitamin D came before or after people became sick, the Israeli researchers said.

Despite the new data from Israel, we still don’t know if low vitamin D levels cause people with COVID-19 to develop serious disease.

Underlying conditions that reduce vitamin D can also make people more vulnerable to severe COVID-19, for example.


The Israeli researchers cautioned that vitamin D was “one piece of the complex puzzle” underlying severe COVID-19, in addition to comorbidities, genetic predisposition, dietary habits, and geographic factors.

“Our study warrants further studies investigating if and when vitamin D supplementation among vitamin D deficient individuals in the community impacts the outcome of an eventual COVID-19 episode,” they said.


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