Over the past several months I have been writing and broadcasting about the potential role of vitamin D as it relates to COVID-19. Understanding the multiple roles that vitamin D plays in regulating immunity really supports the level of interest that we are seeing in the scientific community at a time when so many ideas are being vetted.
By and large, effectiveness of any intervention is looked at in terms of either prevention of a problem or its actual treatment. And while there is a fairly robust body of literature accumulating that clearly shows higher risk for the disease as well as worse outcome associated with low levels of vitamin D, actually using vitamin D as a treatment for existing disease hasn’t really been extensively studied.
That said, I am excited to present a recent study from Spain in which patients hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 infection were randomized to either receive a form of vitamin D (calcifediol) or not. This form of vitamin D has a better absorption profile in comparison to the typical nutritional form of vitamin D, vitamin D3.
The study involved 76 patients who were, interestingly, all treated with what appeared to be a standard treatment protocol, namely, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. That said, the authors reported later in their discussion:
However, taking into consideration more recent data on the safety and efficacy of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in small randomized clinical trials, case series, and observational studies this treatment is no longer considered effective in treating COVID-19.
The findings of the study were very important. In the group that was given the vitamin D, 2% required treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU). In the untreated group, 50% required transfer to the ICU and 2 of these patients died. There were no deaths in patients who received vitamin D. The authors concluded:
… our pilot study demonstrated that administration of calcifediol may improve the clinical outcome of subjects requiring hospitalization for COVID-19. Whether that would also apply to patients with an earlier stage of the disease and whether baseline vitamin D status modifies these results is unknown.
Based on this and so many other recent studies, as well as our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the role of vitamin D in human physiology, it makes sense to consider adding vitamin D as a nutritional supplement in consultation with your healthcare provider. And in an ideal world, work with your healthcare professional to fine tune your dosage based on measuring blood levels.