Israeli study: Vitamin D plays life and death role for COVID-19 patients

As Israel experiences its largest-ever wave of the coronavirus, Israeli researchers find patients with low levels of Vitamin D 14 times are more likely to suffer serious illness.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Many are familiar with the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But can Vitamin D keep the coronavirus at bay?

A team of Israeli researchers found that Vitamin D plays an important role in outcomes for patients infected with the coronavirus, with those suffering from a deficiency of the nutrient far more likely to be hospitalized or die.

In a study published in the medical journal PLOS ONE, researchers from Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University in Safed and the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya wrote that there was a clear correlation between Vitamin D levels in patients and the severity of their illness.

Analyzing the Vitamin D levels of 1,176 patients who received a positive PCR test while hospitalized, the researchers concluded that people with low vitamin D were a staggering 14 times more likely to experience serious illness stemming from a coronavirus infection.

Conversely, patients with normal Vitamin D levels were far more likely to experience milder illness and recover more quickly.

In some cases, it appeared that insufficient levels of Vitamin D could literally mean a death sentence.

“Strikingly, mortality among patients with sufficient vitamin D levels was 2.3 percent, in contrast to 25.6% in the Vitamin D deficient group,” the researchers wrote.

The study, which considered gender, age, whether or not the patient had preexisting conditions or chronic illnesses, and the time of year in which they were infected, found that low vitamin D was a consistent, major risk factor for serious illness and mortality rates.

“This study contributes to a continually evolving body of evidence suggesting that a patient’s history of vitamin D deficiency is a predictive risk factor associated with poorer COVID-19 clinical disease course and mortality,” study co-author Prof. Michael Edelstein of the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University said in a statement.

“It is still unclear why certain individuals suffer severe consequences of COVID-19 infection while others don’t. Our finding adds a new dimension to solving this puzzle.”

“Our results suggest that it is advisable to maintain normal levels of vitamin D. This will be beneficial to those who contract the virus,” said Dr. Amiel Dror, of the Galilee Medical Center and Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University, who led the study.

“There is a clear consensus for Vitamin D supplementation on a regular basis as advised by local health authorities as well as global health organizations.”

The idea of Vitamin D helping prevent serious illness was previously floated by Israeli researchers in October 2020. The new study comes as Israel experiences its largest-ever wave of the virus, with a record number of daily infections and positive cases.

Nearly 38,000 Israelis tested positive for the virus on Saturday, with the test positivity rate standing at an all-time high of 28.79 percent.