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Dr. Fauci says this simple drug that’s already available might reduce coronavirus risks

Published Sep 28th, 2020 10:02AM EDT
Coronavirus Treatment
Image: maxbelchenko/Adobe

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  • A new coronavirus study shows that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of COVID-19 complications and deaths, echoing similar findings from earlier this year.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci has endorsed vitamin D in a recent interview, emphasizing that it might help people who are vitamin D deficient fight a potential covid infection.
  • There’s no randomized clinical trial to prove the effectiveness of vitamin D therapy in COVID-19, however.

The novel coronavirus will remain a significant danger to all of us until effective vaccines and drug therapies are widely available. COVID-19 has killed more than 1 million people worldwide as of this past weekend, out of more than 33.4 million confirmed cases. While it’s true that it’s usually people who suffer from other medical issues and the elderly who are most at risk of death, there have been plenty of exceptions to that rule. Young people, including children who had no other medical problems, have died of COVID-19 complications. On top of that, many of us have preexisting conditions that we’re not even aware of. That’s why it’s so important to protect yourself as well as possible until treatments are widely available.

The good news is that doctors have not stopped thinking of ways to beat the virus, and we already have plenty of examples of effective therapies that save lives. Remdesivir and dexamethasone are the most straightforward examples, but they’re not the only ones. The entire class of steroids, not just dexamethasone, has been found to work as a COVID-19 therapy. The same goes for blood thinners, which were proven to help prevent complications. Plasma transfusions can also save lives in certain conditions, and there are a variety of new drugs that are in clinical trials. In addition to that, there’s one other type of drug that appears to be effective for COVID-19, and it’s one that Dr. Anthony Fauci already endorses. The best part about it is that you might not even need to take it in order to benefit from it.

A study claimed a few months ago that vitamin D deficiency had been correlated with COVID-19 complications and death, and another study argued there’s no proof vitamin D can prevent or treat COVID-19. We’ve always told you that nothing is set in stone with coronavirus studies, and more research will be required to confirm early findings. When it comes to vitamin D, we already have more research that indicates sufficient levels can indeed reduce complications and death.

The newest vitamin D data comes from the Boston University School of Medicine, via SciTechDaily. Doctors found that patients who were vitamin D sufficient (a blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D of at least 30 ng/ml) had a significantly decreased risk for complications, including unconsciousness, hypoxia, and death. People who had enough vitamin D in their systems had lower blood levels of C-reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation that goes up when an infection is present. Lymphocyte counts were also higher. Those are the immune system cells that can fight illnesses, and which are diminished in COVID-19 cases.

The doctors tested vitamin D levels in 235 COVID-19 patients and compared the outcomes of patients who were deficient to those who had sufficient vitamin D.

The researchers wrote that patients older than 40 who were vitamin D sufficient were 51.5% less likely to die from the infection. Michael Holick, professor of medicine, physiology, biophysics and molecular medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, is one of the authors of the study. Previously, he published a paper concluding that a sufficient amount of vitamin D could reduce the risk of catching coronavirus by 54%.

The risk of infection is still there, and vitamin D is not going to be a magical cure for COVID-19. However, the good news here is that vitamin D is something we already get from food. The skin even synthesizes it from sun exposure. Of course, vitamin D is also available as an over-the-counter supplement that anyone can take.

Dr. Fauci also recommends vitamin D to possibly reduce the risk of infection. “If you are deficient in vitamin D, that does have an impact on your susceptibility to infection,” the health expert said during an Instagram Live chat with Jennifer Garner a few days ago. “So, I would not mind recommending, and I do it myself taking vitamin D supplements.”

At the time, he also advised another supplement that some people might consider. “The other vitamin that people take is vitamin C because it’s a good antioxidant, so if people want to take a gram or so of vitamin C, that would be fine.” Vitamin C also helps the immune system fight off infections, although there are no similar studies to prove its effectiveness against the novel coronavirus.

Testing for vitamin D deficiency might be advised before taking supplements. As CNBC points out, not all experts agree that routine testing for vitamin D is advised. It’s not just that the test results take longer to process, but they’re also costly and could lead to more people seeking vitamin D supplements. The report notes that there’s not enough scientific evidence to prove that taking vitamin D does anything helpful for people who do not have a vitamin D difficiency.

Still, an NIH study from 2014 indicated that 35% of adults and nearly 50% of infants in the US were vitamin D deficient. Importantly, the symptoms of deficiency aren’t immediately discernible. They can include accelerated skin aging or dry skin, but that might not be enough to diagnose the condition. Severe deficiency could lead to muscle weakness and bone fractures.

CNCB also indicates that Dr. Holick might be biased towards vitamin D. Holick has studied vitamin D in the past and even published a book on it in 2010. Holick has been criticized for receiving funds from the vitamin D supplement industry for his research. The doctor said at the time that industry funding does not influence his recommendations.

As with other potential COVID-19 treatments, the best way to prove the effectiveness of vitamin D is with a randomized clinical trial, which would offer better conclusions than an observational study.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.