Vitamin D supplements can reduce the risk of death from Covid-19 in older patients by as much as seven times, a group of Irish experts claim.
Scientists from the country's leading universities outline compelling evidence to revise guidance on vitamin D supplementation during the pandemic in a call to action paper published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science.
Dr Declan Gerard Byrne, a clinician at St James's Hospital, and Professor Rose Anne Kenny, principal investigator of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), are among those urging health professionals and policy-makers to recognise the importance of enhanced vitamin D in immune response.
Dr Dan McCartney, programme director of Human Nutrition and Dietetics at TU Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, said "the accumulation of evidence linking low vitamin D levels and Covid-19 is now considerable".
"This evidence includes studies which show an increased risk of infection in those with low vitamin D levels and a 25 to 30-fold reduced risk of ICU admission and a substantial reduction risk of death in older Covid-19 patients supplemented with vitamin D," he said.
"The current pandemic has claimed over 2,000 lives in this country and continues to pressurise our acute care system."
He advises people to take 20 to 25 micrograms of vitamin D each day for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis.
However, Dr McCartney said older people and those who are obese or with darker skin may need to take a higher dose of the vitamin in consultation with their GP.
"Over the last few months, clinical studies in hospital patients with Covid-19 began to show people who were vitamin D deficient did much worse in their clinical outcome," he told LMFM.