Scientists have warned vitamin D deficiency in ‘high-risk individuals’ should be identified and treated after a study found over 80% of hospital patients with Covid-19 were lacking in the vitamin.

The University of Cantabria research found that 82.2% of coronavirus patients, out of 216 tested, at Hospital Universitario Marqués de Valdecill were deficient in vitamin D. Men had lower levels than women. 

Researchers recommended vitamin D treatment for ‘high-risk individuals’, such as the elderly and patients with comorbidities, and Covid-19 patients.

Study co-author José Hernández said: ‘[Vitamin D treatment] might have beneficial effects in both the musculoskeletal and the immune system.’

Coronavirus patients with lower vitamin D levels also had raised serum levels of inflammatory markers, such as ferritin and D-dimer. These rise when the body is fighting off an infection.

In contrast, out of a control group of people who didn’t have Covid-19, just 47% of people were deficient in vitamin D.

However, the research did not find a link between circulating levels of vitamin D and severity of Covid-19 infection, such as ICU admission, the need for mechanical ventilation or mortality.

Dr Hernández continued: ‘One approach is to identify and treat vitamin D deficiency, especially in high-risk individuals such as the elderly, patients with comorbidities, and nursing home residents, who are the main target population for the Covid-19.

‘Vitamin D treatment should be recommended in Covid-19 patients with low levels of vitamin D circulating in the blood,’ he added.

Vitamin D is a hormone the kidneys produce that controls blood calcium concentration and impacts the immune system.

Deficiency in the vitamin has been linked to a variety of health concerns, although research is still underway into why the hormone impacts other systems of the body.

Many studies point to the beneficial effect of vitamin D on the immune system, especially regarding protection against infections.

The article was first published on the Pharmacist's sister publication, Nursing in Practice