Scientists have established a link between low levels of vitamin D and high numbers of deaths due to coronavirus in about 20 European nations.
Data gathered from over 10 countries was analyzed and it was ascertained that low vitamin D levels and hyperactive immune systems were interlinked. Vitamin D boosts immunity and prevents overactive immune responses. The finding could explain several mysteries, including why children are unlikely to die from COVID-19.
Low vitamin D in COVID-19 patients
Based on earlier studies, the researchers, including Lee Smith of Anglia Ruskin University in the UK, stated that susceptibility to respiratory tract infections and low levels of vitamin D levels exists and it calls for a detailed study, especially during the ongoing pandemic.
The response of white blood cells (WBC) is modulated due to vitamin D and this prevents them from releasing too many inflammatory molecules called cytokines, which are produced in excess in patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms.
As compared to most other European nations, Italy and Spain have lower average vitamin D levels and both have experienced high COVID-19 mortality rates.
This is because people here avoid strong sun and skin pigmentation also reduces natural vitamin D synthesis.
Higher vitamin D boosts immunity
The highest average levels of vitamin D are found in northern Europe and it is primarily due to people going out in the sun and taking cod liver oil and vitamin D supplements. The study further stated that Scandinavian nations are among the countries with the lowest number of COVID-19 cases and mortality rates per head of population in Europe.
Lee Smith, the study co-author from Anglia Ruskin University, said, "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."
Vitamin D is particularly found less in older adults and they are the worst affected by the coronavirus.
Smith added, "A previous study found that 75 percent of people in institutions, such as hospitals and care homes, were severely deficient in vitamin D."
It was however stated that correlation does not mean causation and further studies were needed to establish a stronger connection between vitamin D and COVID-19 mortality rates.