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Will High-Dose Vitamin D Fight COVID-19?

Don't take high-dose vitamin D once you are ill. Instead, get your blood levels up before you encounter infection.
Will High-Dose Vitamin D Fight COVID-19?
Yellow vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) gelatine capsules and green bottle on clay plate on burlap background. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) nutrient  beneficial for supporting bone health

Vitamin D has a reputation as a compound that can help bones stay strong. However, research has shown that immune system cells such as macrophages or monocytes rely on vitamin D as well (Reviews in Medical Virology, Jan. 2017). Many people may wonder if high-dose vitamin D could help people resist serious infections like COVID-19.

Can High-Dose Vitamin D Fight Infection?

Q. I have read that high-dose vitamin D did not make a difference when people were admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. Perhaps you should have higher levels of vitamin D circulating in your body when you are first exposed to COVID-19, instead of receiving a massive dose of D after you are already sick and in the hospital. Higher levels of D at the get-go might prevent the inflammation and immune system overreactions that make COVID-19 so serious for some people.

A. You are referring to a Brazilian study (MedRxiv, Nov. 17, 2020).  In it, 240 hospitalized COVID-19 patients got either placebo or 200,000 IU of vitamin D in a single giant dose. There was no difference between the groups with respect to hospital stay, intensive care or ventilator use.

Low Vitamin D May Make People More Susceptible to COVID-19:

Other research suggests that people with low vitamin D levels in their bodies may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 (Health Security, Dec. 14, 2020).  Vitamin D helps calm inflammation. As a result, some scientists hypothesize that people without enough vitamin D are more likely to suffer deadly cytokine storms if they become infected (Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, Sep. 2, 2020).  In other words, they agree with you that people with adequate vitamin D before infection are better off than having sick people take super high-dose vitamin D.

Learn More:

You can learn more about vitamin D in our eGuide to Vitamin D and Optimal Health. In it, you’ll learn about supplementation and symptoms of inadequate vitamin D as well as details on what it does. Is high-dose vitamin D dangerous? We lay out its possible toxicity.

You may also wish to listen to our podcast on the topic. It is Show 1240: The Link Between Vitamin D and COVID-19. In it, we interview guest experts David O. Meltzer, MD, PhD, and Bruce Hollis, PhD.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Citations
  • Zdrenghea MT et al, "Vitamin D modulation of innate immune responses to respiratory viral infections." Reviews in Medical Virology, Jan. 2017. DOI: 10.1002/rmv.1909
  • Murai IH et al, "Effect of vitamin D3 supplementation vs placebo on hospital length of stay in patients with severe COVID-19: A multicenter, double-blind, randomized controlled trial." MedRxiv, Nov. 17, 2020.
  • Mariani J et al, "Association between vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 incidence, complications, and mortality in 46 countries: An ecological study." Health Security, Dec. 14, 2020. DOI: 10.1089/hs.2020.0137
  • Daneshkhah A et al, "Evidence for possible association of vitamin D status with cytokine storm and unregulated inflammation in COVID-19 patients." Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, Sep. 2, 2020. doi: 10.1007/s40520-020-01677-y
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