Previous studies speculated that higher vitamin D levels might prevent or minimize infections, the new findings contradict those claims
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.—A new study from Cornell University and RTI International (RTI), a nonprofit research institute, has found ‘little to no evidence’ that vitamin D, as measured in blood, can reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 or lessen the severity of the virus. Earlier studies suggested a correlation between higher vitamin D levels and lower risks of COVID-19, but after analyzing publicly available data on these findings, the researchers say the previously observed correlation could be giving the public a false sense of protection.
The study’s findings suggest that supplementation with low levels of vitamin D is likely an ineffective strategy for COVID-19 prevention and treatment. More evidence is still needed from clinical intervention trials to address the impact of therapeutic doses of vitamin D supplementation on COVID-19 outcomes.
“We hope this research is powerful in correcting misinformation around the idea that vitamin D will protect you from COVID-19,” said Dana Hancock, PhD, genetic epidemiologist and director of the GenOmics, Bioinformatics, and Translational Research Center at RTI and co-author on the study. “Our best protective measures from contracting the virus are vaccinations, masking, physical distancing and diligent hand washing – based on the findings, it is evident that your natural vitamin D status is not a part of that list.”
After analyzing a genomic dataset of about 1.4 million people collected from 38 cohort studies worldwide, the authors concluded that the associations between COVID-19 and vitamin D highlighted by prior studies were likely the result of other factors known to be related to low vitamin D levels, such as weight, high blood pressure, chronic disease and age – also known risk factors of COVID-19.
“The data we analyzed does highlight some of the racial disparities in healthcare that we’ve seen throughout the course of the pandemic – most of the data we had access to described individuals from European ancestry,” said Nathan Gaddis, PhD, bioinformaticist in RTI’s GenOmics, Bioinformatics, and Translational Research Center and co-author on the study. “Further study is warranted to investigate the impact of vitamin D levels (or lack thereof) in populations of other races and ethnicities.”
In addition to its large sample size, the researchers describe their study as comprehensive in its examination of multiple definitions of genetic variation in vitamin D and multiple outcomes related to COVID-19 infection and severity, from positive tests to hospitalization.
The study was published in BMJ Nutrition, Precision, and Health and the research was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
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