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A new study from the University of Chicago Medicine suggests that people with low levels of vitamin D might be at increased risk of the virus that causes COVID-19.
In the study, researchers looked at 4,314 U of I patients and found that 499 patients had their vitamin D level measured the year before they were tested for the coronavirus Of those patients, 489 were included in the study.
After looking at the patients’ vitamin D deficiencies, treatments to address the deficiencies and theiir most recent vitamin D levels before COVID-19 testing, researchers found that 124 (25%) patients were likely deficient, 287 (59%) were likely sufficient, and 78 (16%) and 30 (6%) had uncertain deficiency.
Of these participants. 71 (15%) tested positive for COVID-19.
The result was that people with untreated deficiency had nearly twice the risk for contacting the coronavirus than people with normal levels of vitamin D, the study said.
“Since African American and Hispanic populations in the US have both high rates of vitamin D deficiency and bear a disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19,35,36 they may be particularly important populations to engage in studies of whether vitamin D can reduce the incidence and burden of COVID-19,” the study said.
Other studies have also looked at the deficiencies of vitamin D in black Americans and Hispanics.
The University of Chicago Medicine study said that, at this point, it’s unknown if vitamin D can reduce spread of the coronavirus or it it might reduce inflammation and symptoms, which may influence asymptomatic spread.
“Randomized clinical trials of interventions to reduce vitamin D deficiency are needed to determine if those interventions could reduce COVID-19 incidence,” the study said.
The University of Chicago Medicine study is called “Association of Vitamin D Status and Other Clinical Characteristics With COVID-19 Test Results.” It was published Sept. 3 on JAMA Network.
But the University of Chicago is not the only Illinois institution looking at vitamin D deficiency and how it might relate to the coronavirus.
In May, a research team led by Northwestern University in Evanston found a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates in patients with COVID-19, according to a May 13 story in The Herald-News.
Their paper, “The Possible Role of Vitamin D in Suppressing Cytokine Storm and Associated Mortality in COVID-19 Patients” is available at medRxiv.
A number of studies regarding vitamin D and the immune system have been conducted by various researchers over the last decade.
Some of these studies have suggested that people with low vitamin D levels are at increased risk of respiratory illnesses, including upper respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis and even asthma and allergies.
However, even health care experts don’t agree what the optimal level of vitamin D should be. In fact, vitamin D isn’t even technically a vitamin.
In the University of Chicago Medicine study, vitamin D deficiency was defined as less than 20 ng/mL.