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As the world seeks solutions to tackle COVID-19, brand new research highlights the importance of vitamin D for reducing the risks associated with respiratory infections caused by coronaviruses. Data published in May on 212 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 revealed that the severity of infection was correlated to the patient’s vitamin D levels. More than 85 percent of patients with normal vitamin D (≥ 30 ng/ml) experienced mild cases, while 73 percent of patients with vitamin D deficiency (≤ 20 ng/ml) experienced “severe or critical” infections. Vitamin D is a critical player in immune function and supports immune competence in two important ways.
First, it is necessary for the production of antiviral peptides in the respiratory tract, making the respiratory tract less likely to be infected with a virus. Second, it helps promote a balanced inflammatory immune response. According to the researchers, "Vitamin D can help reduce the inflammatory response to SARSCoV-2 infection, which has a positive effect on patients’ outcome, as an excessive inflammatory response can lead to systemic manifestations that increase severity and complications of the disease."
Recently, a team of international researchers sought to explore whether selenium status was associated with COVID-19 cure and death rates. “Given the history of viral infections associated with selenium deficiency, we wondered whether the appearance of COVID-19 in China could possibly be linked to the belt of selenium deficiency that runs from the north-east to the south-west of the country,” Margaret Rayman, one of the researchers, explained.
To study this connection and to see if selenium deficiency impacted COVID-19 outcomes, the researchers looked at COVID-19 health data, including confirmed cases, numbers cured, and numbers who died, throughout various cities in China. They then compared this to data on selenium status (obtained via hair analysis) in different Chinese cities. Results of the analysis revealed that compared to those regions with lower selenium status, those with higher intakes of selenium experienced less death and had significantly greater cure rates. The researchers also concluded that selenium may play a role in preventing the blood clots seen in some COVID-19 patients because it has an anti-clotting effect. Inadequate selenium directly impairs our immune defense by reducing the activity and proliferation of immune cells and by reducing our antioxidant defenses.
Selenium is needed to help the body form seleno proteins, the most important of which are glutathiones, which function as antioxidants that directly combat oxidative stress caused by free radicals. During viral infections, free radicals are produced in large amounts and without sufficient selenium, they can quickly overwhelm our antioxidant defenses, causing massive inflammation and damage to body tissues. It has been shown that selenium supplementation modulates the inflammatory response in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) patients by restoring the antioxidant capacity of the lungs, thus improving lung function.1 Inadequate antioxidant capacity due to selenium deficiency can also cause mutations to occur within viruses, making them even more dangerous and infectious.