A new study has found an association between low average levels of vitamin D and high numbers of COVID-19 cases and mortality rates.
Italy and Spain have both experienced high COVID-19 mortality rates, and the new study shows that both countries have lower average vitamin D levels than most northern European countries. This is partly because people in southern Europe, particularly the elderly, avoid strong sun, while skin pigmentation also reduces natural vitamin D synthesis. The highest levels of vitamin D are found in northern Europe, due to the consumption of cod liver oil and vitamin D supplements, and possibly less sun avoidance.
Dr Lee Smith, Reader in Physical Activity and Public Health at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “Vitamin D has been shown to protect against acute respiratory infections, and older adults, the group most deficient in vitamin D, are also the ones most seriously affected by COVID-19. A previous study found that 75% of people in institutions, such as hospitals and care homes, were severely deficient in vitamin D. We suggest it would be advisable to perform studies looking at vitamin D levels in COVID-19 patients with different degrees of disease severity.”