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Can a simple foundational supplement like vitamin D protect you from COVID-19? Recent research says yes. Multiple studies published in 2020 show that having optimal levels of vitamin D reduces your risk of COVID-19 infection and protects against severe COVID-19 outcomes if you do get infected.
In one study, published in the journal PLOS ONE in September 2020, researchers looked at 191,000 blood samples from all 50 states for COVID-positive patients. The researchers discovered that rates of COVID infection were higher in those patients with vitamin D levels less than 20 ng/mL (this is considered deficient) compared to those with levels of 30 ng/mL and higher. Those who were deficient had a positivity rate of 12.5 percent, while people with vitamin D levels of 30- 34 ng/mL had a positivity rate of 8 percent and the patients with vitamin D levels higher than 55 ng/mL had a positivity rate of 5.9 percent.
The researchers wrote, “SARS-CoV-2 positivity is strongly … associated with circulating 25(OH)D levels, a relationship that persists across latitudes, races/ethnicities, both sexes, and age ranges. Our findings provide impetus to explore the role of vitamin D supplementation in reducing the risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 disease.” Another study investigated whether vitamin D levels affected how sick a person got if they did catch COVID-19. Researchers studied two groups of COVID patients for six weeks—one group included patients who were asymptomatic and the other group included patients who were severely ill and required ICU admission. The asymptomatic patients had a mean vitamin D level of 27.89 ng/mL and the critically ill patients had a mean level of 14.35 ng/mL. The vitamin D-deficient patients had higher levels of inflammation and a higher fatality rate (21% vs 3%) compared to those with the higher vitamin D levels, leading the researchers to “recommend mass administration of vitamin D supplements to populations at risk for COVID-19.”
Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs)—used for acid-related issues like gastro-esophageal refl ux disease (GERD) and peptic ulcers—are one of the most commonly used medications worldwide. While they can provide short-term relief for many people, research is showing that PPIs can negatively affect gut bacteria, shifting our microbiomes in a way that can be deleterious to health, including increasing the risk of diabetes.
A 2020 study published in the journal Gut examined data from three large studies that included health information on more than 204,000 people to investigate the connection between diabetes and PPI use. They found that using PPIs regularly for two years was associated with a 24 percent higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes, and the risk increased with the duration of PPI use; however, diabetes risk decreased with time after stopping PPIs. The researchers stated that, “At a population level, PPIs may have an even more pronounced effect on the gut microbiome than other commonly used drugs such as antibiotics…” and advised that doctors should “exercise caution when prescribing PPIs, particularly for long-term use.”