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Is Vitamin D a COVID Bust?

Is Vitamin D a COVID Bust?
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Not even close. We need to support Americans’ supplement access through expanded Health Savings Accounts. Action Alert!

Two new studies appear to contradict the idea that vitamin D offers protection against COVID, but the preponderance of evidence still indicates that D can help us stay safe. We can help more Americans get the vitamins they need by expanding Health Savings Accounts to cover supplements and other natural medicines.

One study found no association between vitamin D levels and COVID susceptibility, severity, or hospitalization. This study looked mostly at white individuals, though, which may skew the results, as we know that vitamin D deficiency is more prevalent among African Americans—a population that has been hit harder by COVID that whites. The other study concluded that vitamin D deficiency was not significantly associated with COVID infection or mortality; it arrived at this conclusion by obtaining vitamin D deficiency data from the last decade for a number of European countries and comparing those rates to COVID infection and mortality rates in each country. It is an interesting statistical exercise but hardly seems like the nail in vitamin D’s coffin. A lead author on this second study seems to have an axe to grind against vitamin D: news coverage quotes him as saying, “Vitamin D has been praised for too many things even though we have very limited data for that.”

Should we throw out our vitamin D bottles, then? The answer is “No,” and news agencies are doing us a disservice by suggesting as much.

When evaluating the evidence, we must look at all the data, and there are many, many more studies demonstrating that vitamin D can strengthen the immune system and help us fight infection.

Let’s consider some of the evidence for vitamin D and COVID:

  • A meta-analysis of 25 randomized controlled trials showed that vitamin D supplementation significantly reduces the risk of acute respiratory infections in the overall population by 12% and in those with profound vitamin D deficiency by 70%.
  • Fifteen studies have compared survival rates between groups with higher and lower vitamin D levels, and consistently show that people with higher levels of vitamin D do better, especially compared with those who are deficient, which describes 42 percent of the US population. The findings of these fifteen studies clearly contradict the two negative studies referenced above.
  • It is well known that vitamin D is critical to the immune system. It activates the immune system’s defenses, enhances the function of T cells and macrophages against pathogens, and is critical to the production of cathelicidin, an antimicrobial peptide.

Two studies showing vitamin D doesn’t help with COVID are clearly outweighed by the 40 studies referenced above showing that vitamin D helps prevent respiratory infection (which is what COVID is) and improves COVID survival rates. Additionally, there are thousands of studies in PubMed about vitamin D and the immune system, clearly indicating the important role D plays in our health.

Based on this evidence, government health agencies should be shouting from the rooftops for all of us, but particularly vulnerable populations, to supplement with D. Instead, of course, the government is doing the opposite, ignoring cheap and safe options for staying healthy. This is backwards.

Note that many trials may understate the effectiveness of vitamin D because they are looking at individuals above or below 30 ng/mL. GrassrootsHealth, an organization dedicated to disseminating information about vitamin D research, recommends achieving vitamin D levels of 40-60 ng/mL; others recommend levels between 50-70 ng/mL. Vitamin D should also be combined with vitamin K2 for maximum effectiveness.

We can help ensure that more Americans get the vitamins they need. The Health Savings Act would allow Health Savings Account (HSA) and Flexible Savings Account (FSA) funds to go towards dietary supplements, herbs, and homeopathic remedies. The bill also includes health coaches and nutrition services as allowable expenses for HSAs and FSAs. If passed, this bill will improve access to wellness and nutrition services for millions of people, services that, as we’ve seen, will help us stay healthy and prevent serious COVID infection.

Action Alert! Write to Congress and tell them to support the Health Savings Act of 2021. Please send your message immediately.  

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