- To date, scientists are still puzzled by how the disease manifests itself among different segments of the population.
- Once infected, some people develop severe symptoms that are life threatening while others largely remain normal, devoid of any health problems.
- Even among hospitalised patients, there are individuals who tend to recover much faster with minimal damage to body organs, even as others become critically ill and succumb to the disease.
As the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) rages on globally, health experts are working round the clock to understand different dynamics of the condition to find better ways of managing it.
To date, scientists are still puzzled by how the disease manifests itself among different segments of the population.
Once infected, some people develop severe symptoms that are life threatening while others largely remain normal, devoid of any health problems.
Even among hospitalised patients, there are individuals who tend to recover much faster with minimal damage to body organs, even as others become critically ill and succumb to the disease.
These variations in the severity of the disease have been attributed to a myriad of factors including age, presence of underlying conditions and the immune system status.
In addition to these factors, a new study published in the Plos One Journal has revealed that Vitamin D can cushion people against the adverse effects of Covid-19.
According to the research, sufficient levels of the nutrient reduce the risk of complications that can take a toll on the body when people are infected with the coronavirus disease.
The findings of this study are in line with a recent one published in the same journal (on September 17, 2020), which showed that vitamin D could also help individuals to minimise their risk of getting the coronavirus disease,
The best source of vitamin D is the sun, which usually stimulates the production of the nutrient in the skin.
But with most people spending time indoors due to social distancing measures aimed at curbing spread of Covid-19, health experts are concerned that most Kenyans may be unable to access sufficient sunshine for improved vitamin D production.
To avert this problem, they encourage people to purposefully find time to bask in the sun each day. About 20 to 30 minutes daily skin exposure to the sun (in the morning or afternoon) is enough for sufficient vitamin D production.
Other sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil as well as food products such as fatty fish, eggs, cheese, cooked salmon, beef or liver.
Those that are unable to access them can also take vitamin D supplements, prescribed to them by certified nutritionists or health practitioners.
During the study, researchers from the University of Boston collected blood samples from 235 patients admitted with Covid-19 at Sinai Hospital, which is affiliated with the Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran.
The blood enabled them to measure the vitamin D status of the sick people. It further helped them to assess for inflammation caused by the disease in the body through a test know as C-reactive protein analysis.
The blood was also assessed for lymphocytes, which is a type of immune cell that helps the body to fight infections.
Aside from the blood tests, the researchers followed up the patients to determine whether they developed severe symptoms of the coronavirus disease such as becoming unconscious, as well as breathing challenges which result in low oxygen levels that increase the risk of death.
The results of the study revealed that hospitalised Covid-19 patients with sufficient vitamin D levels had a significantly reduced risk of developing severe symptoms linked to the disease.
In patients older than 40 years, the researchers found that sufficient levels of the nutrient was linked to a 51.5 percent reduced risk of dying from Covid-19.
Individuals with adequate levels of vitamin D also had low inflammation levels in their bodies and a strengthened immune system capable of fighting the coronavirus disease, thus forestalling its adverse and life threatening complications.
"This study provides direct evidence that vitamin D sufficiency can reduce the complications and ultimately death from Covid-19," said Dr Michael Holick, a corresponding author of the study and professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.
He recently published another study in the Plos One Journal, which found that sufficient levels of vitamin D could reduce the risk of catching Covid-19 by 54 percent.
The study evaluated more than 190,000 blood samples from patients of all ethnicities and ages infected by Covid-19 in all the 50 states of the United States.
Its findings showed that people who had higher levels of vitamin D were less likely to be infected with the coronavirus disease, irrespective of their geographical location, race, age or gender.
Dr Holick therefore notes that being vitamin D sufficient provides a simple and cost-effective strategy to improve one's ability to fight the coronavirus and reduce Covid-19's adverse effects.
Apart from the new coronavirus, he states that sufficient levels of the nutrient can also offer protection against other viruses that cause upper respiratory tract illnesses or lung infections, including influenza (a major cause of the flu).
"There is great concern that the combination of an influenza infection and a coronal viral infection could substantially increase hospitalisations and death due to complications from these viral infections," he says.