Vitamin D, zinc,
and COVIDOur public health officials’ recommendations of social distancing, face coverings and washing your hands to reduce the risk of becoming infected with COVID are well known. Are there other things one may do to potentially mitigate risk?
A wealth of evidence points to the benefits of correcting nutritional deficiencies to optimize one’s immune system. While this letter is my opinion, predicated on published research from a variety of medical journals, neither the NIH nor the CDC endorse utilization of supplementation with essential nutrients for prevention or treatment of COVID. It should be noted however that part of President Trump’s rapid recovery involved the use of zinc and Vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in this country. Most researchers consider levels of 25-OH Vitamin D below 20ng/ml) to be deficient. Suboptimal or insufficiency is considered at levels below 30ng/ml. A 2012 study of almost 5,000 people showed that 40% were Vitamin D insufficient. A 2020 study showed 24% of the U.S. population to be deficient.
A huge 15-year German study showed that there was a 300% increase in people dying from respiratory disease (including the flu and pneumonia) who were Vitamin D deficient than in those with healthy levels. They concluded that 41% of mortality from respiratory diseases was attributable to Vitamin D deficiency.
A number of 2020 studies show that the majority of COVID patients are Vitamin D deficient or insufficient. One study showed that 81% of hospitalized patients were low in Vitamin D. Another showed low levels to be an independent risk factor for infection and hospitalization. In a massive Israeli study of 4.6 million people across the country, low levels were significantly associated with a higher risk of infection, with the highest risk being associated with the lowest levels. They also observed that areas with higher Vitamin D levels conferred a sort of “herd immunity” since higher levels are associated with a lower risk of infection.
The rate of obesity in this country is over 30% of the populace. Obese adults are three times more likely to be Vitamin D deficient. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension are all known comorbidities for the risk and severity of COVID infection as well, and all are associated with obesity.
Multiple studies have shown a correlation between COVID and Vitamin D deficiency. Low levels contribute to the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) leading to increased lung inflammation. One recent study of hundreds of hospitalized patients showed the odds of hospitalization were 95% higher in Vitamin D deficient patients.
Initial indicators from research are that low Vitamin D is associated with a higher risk of infection and hospitalization and a worse outcome. Is there any evidence that patients with COVID treated with Vitamin D do better? A study done three months ago found that in a controlled trial of hospitalized patients given Vitamin D, only 2% were admitted to the ICU versus 50% of the non-Vitamin D treated patients. A 2010 review of relevant Vitamin D studies stated that it was involved with the production of antimicrobial chemicals (defense’s and cathelicidin) in the respiratory tract and that it plays an important role in the innate immunity of the respiratory tract. A review study of 25 human trials of Vitamin D supplementation on acute respiratory tract infection (ARTi) showed an overall reduction of developing ARTi.
Zinc plays an important role in supporting both innate and adaptive immunity. Deficiency is associated with loss of immune capacity. One study of patients in a hospital’s infectious disease ward showed 2/3 to be zinc deficient. Even mild zinc deficiencies increase the body’s inflammatory state, increase the severity of infections, including viral ones. Respiratory infections increase with age, while zinc status decreases. Zinc has been shown to inhibit viral replication. Several clinical trials have shown the benefit of zinc supplementation on respiratory infections. In one, pneumonia was reduced by 64% in critical care patients. Another study showed zinc supplementation increased the production of interferon-gamma, a virus-fighting chemical.
A new study showed that lower plasma levels of zinc to be associated with poorer COVID survival rates in hospitalized patients. Patients with low levels had a 230% higher risk of dying. The study also showed that progressively higher zinc levels were associated with progressively less mortality.
Every day new research is showing the benefits of optimizing essential nutrients in the fight against COVID, and the benefits of supplementing COVID-positive patients with these nutrients. This is valuable knowledge to assist our policymakers with their recommendations beyond the above well-known ones.
Douglas L. Weed
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