Apr 23, 2020

Trinity Researchers Highlight Role of Vitamin D in Coronavirus Severity

The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, based in Trinity, recommended that nursing home residents take vitamin D supplements.

Emma DonohoeScience and Research Correspondent
Edmund Heaphy for The University Times

Trinity scientists have highlighted the potential role of Vitamin D deficiency in the severity of coronavirus infections.

Researchers in The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), which is based in Trinity, reported a possible role of Vitamin D in suppressing the severe inflammatory responses seen in very ill coronavirus patients and in coronavirus-related deaths.

They recommended Vitamin D supplementation for nursing home residents and referenced the high prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in northern hemisphere countries, including Ireland.


In a press statement, TILDA principal investigator Prof Rose Anne Kenny said: “Vitamin D has many benefits for bone and muscle health and the immune system, in addition to a potentially critical role in suppression of the severe pro-inflammatory response which characterises severe COVID-19 complications. Taking supplements of 800-1000 micrograms per day will ensure normal blood values.”

Vitamin D is produced by the absorption of sunlight by the skin. All countries that lie below a latitude of 35 degrees North have relatively low mortality from coronavirus, whereas people in countries that lie 35 degrees North and above receive insufficient sunlight for adequate Vitamin D levels in winter and spring.

These include Italy and Spain, which have low population levels of Vitamin D.

Mortality rates from the coronavirus are higher at these latitudes, with the exception of Nordic countries, where Vitamin D supplementation is widespread and deficiency much less common.

Kenny continued: “Public Health England, the Scottish and Welsh governments have issued recommendations for supplements for all adults from March to October, and supplementation all year round for adults living in care homes or nursing homes, required to wear clothes that cover most of the skin when outdoors, or with dark skin.”

“Similar public health recommendations are called for in Ireland”, she said. This advice is of importance given high mortality rates for SARS-CoV-2 infection in our nursing home sector. We are recommending that all nursing home residents take Vitamin D.”

Dr Eamon Laird, a research fellow in Trinity who works on the TILDA team, said in a press statement: “In addition to metabolism in the skin, which is due to sun exposure, Vitamin D is present in foods such as oily fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), cheese, egg yolks and beef liver. However, supplementation is the best means of ensuring sufficient Vitamin D blood levels.”

“As the effects of coronavirus continue, many of us are limited in the time we can spend outdoors, so extra care is required to keep vitamin D levels healthy”, he said.

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