There’s a pile of evidence that vitamin D – the ‘sunshine vitamin’ – plays an important role in the immune system, and might help you beat the coronavirus. Why did the coronavirus claim more lives in Italy and Spain than in the northern countries like Denmark, Norway and Finland? Why has it killed more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the UK than Whites? Over the past five months, researchers in different countries have observed a link between vitamin D deficiency and the severity of Covid symptoms. Some scientists believe that people with vitamin D deficiencies have weak or abnormal immune responses that make them more susceptible to developing Covid-19 and experiencing severe symptoms. Analysis of data from 25 different studies shows people who were given vitamin D had a 12 per cent lower risk of developing respiratory tract infections compared to those given placebos. Recently, scientists at University of Chicago Medicine have also found that vitamin D-deficient people are 77 per cent more likely to get Covid-19. Many Covid-19 patients develop a lifethreatening condition called ‘acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)’ in which leaking blood vessels don’t allow the lungs to fill with enough oxygen. USA today says a 2015 study found that patients with ARDS and those at risk of developing it had vitamin D deficiency. More to the point, “Taking vitamin D to mitigate the threat of Covid-19 was one of the earliest suggestions to come from virus researchers in China,” James Hamblin writes in The Atlantic, adding that research at Northwestern University shows, “in general, people in countries with high Covid-19 mortality rates had lower levels of vitamin D compared with patients in countries that were not as severely affected.” D for defence Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D is not really a nutrient, but a hormone. Our own skin manufactures the compound when exposed to sunlight. But how does this free tonic defend the body? The vitamin is involved in not only the fight against invading bacteria and viruses but also ensuring immune system doesn’t spin out of control and harm human body. Vitamin D enables the macrophages in our lungs – a first line of defence against respiratory infections – to spew out an antimicrobial peptide called cathelicidin, killing bacteria and viruses directly. It also seems to reduce levels of interleukin-6, a biochemical that causes inflammation and is associated with the severe breathing difficulties seen in the disease.
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