NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Vitamin D has long played a role in how a person responds to illness.
“Patients who have lower Vitamin D levels are more likely to get an infection needing hospitalization or the ICU. And, they’re more likely to die from their infection,” explains Dr. Todd Rice, Director of the Medical ICU at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Now doctors see the same trend among patients fighting COVID-19. Dr. Rice says more than 40 studies are underway to determine a cause of the correlation.
“We’ve learned in these seven to eight months that low Vitamin D levels are associated with the virus, with getting it, and with outcomes. What we don’t know is whether a low Vitamin D level is the cause of that, or if it’s just a marker of how sick the person is,” Dr. Rice said.
Dr. Rice also explains a person’s skin tone plays a direct role in absorption.
“The main way that we get Vitamin D into our body is through sunlight and absorbing sunlight, so people with darker skin tones absorb less U.V. radiation and less Vitamin D.”
Throughout the pandemic, people of color have been disproportionally affected by COVID-19.
“We know that African Americans, people of color, the Latinx community, have been over-represented with the disease,” explains Rice. “Meaning they’ve had a higher rate of getting or contracting COVID. And when they do contract COVID. They’ve had a higher rate of having a severe illness. We also know that that population tends to be more deficient in Vitamin D.”
Now researchers are focused on finding a possible connection between the two.
“We’re trying to learn if giving people supplementation for Vitamin D will improve their outcomes,” Dr. Rice said.
If sufficient Vitamin D levels help ward off COVID-19, Dr. Rice believes the findings could be a game-changer.
“I think the reason there’s a lot of excitement about it is because if it works, and it actually improves outcomes in patients, it’s something we could easily do widely in practice.”