Can Vitamin D Supplements Prevent COVID-19 or Reduce Symptoms?

Funding from the National Institutes of Health will enable a Penn State researcher to study whether vitamin D supplementation could help people ward off or reduce symptoms caused by COVID-19.

Margherita Cantorna, distinguished professor of molecular immunology and nutrition in the College of Agricultural Sciences, received nearly $241,000 as part of a competitive revision to the final year of an existing NIH grant that supports her research on how vitamin D regulates the immune system in the gastrointestinal tract.

Cantorna said the addition of two key collaborators in the college’s Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences make the new work possible: virologist Troy Sutton, assistant professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences, and Girish Kirimanjiswara, associate professor whose research focuses on immunology and infectious diseases.

“Patients with acute respiratory infections have been shown to be vitamin D deficient, and vitamin D supplements have been touted as being useful in high doses for preventing seasonal influenza,” Cantorna said. “Meanwhile, the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has generated interest in the potential of high-dose vitamin D supplements to prevent and treat severe disease associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Cantorna’s research group has shown that vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining health in the gastrointestinal tract. Higher levels of vitamin D reduce susceptibility to inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease, as well as gut and lung infections in animals and people. However, too much vitamin D can be harmful.

Cantorna noted that the local and systemic inflammation caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection is not well understood, and controlling such inflammation may improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients. Although low vitamin D status has been associated with acute respiratory diseases, research has not confirmed a causal relationship.

“We don’t yet fully understand the mechanisms underlying the effects of vitamin D in the lung or how vitamin D regulates host immunity to viral infection,” she said. “These significant knowledge gaps have hindered the development of interventions and accurate messaging that include vitamin D for the treatment and prevention of respiratory disease.”

Using mouse and hamster models, Cantorna’s team will test whether supplemental vitamin D treatments will limit viral replication and/or inflammation in the lung leading to protection against severe SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“We plan to determine the effects, dose and timing of possible vitamin D interventions in infected animals,” Cantorna said. “Because SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to infect the gastrointestinal tract, the benefits of vitamin D might include regulation of gastrointestinal immunity as well as lung immunity.”

She added that all work with SARS-CoV-2 viruses will be performed at the Eva J. Pell Laboratory for Enhanced Biological Research, which is Penn State’s state-of-the-art biosafety level 3 facility.

“In some cases, the most vulnerable people are being told they should take vitamin D supplements to protect against COVID-19, without proof of efficacy or safety,” Cantorna said. “We hope our findings can contribute to the development of responsible guidance on whether high amounts of vitamin D are safe and effective in alleviating this disease.

COVID-19ImmunologyNational Institutes of HealthNutritionPenn State UniversityPopularPublic HealthVitamins
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  • Maureen glennon

    I got bloods taken recommended by my gp the results came back to me by text from gp saying your vitamin d levels are normal no need for supplement
    I have diabetas cronic heart disease cronic kidneys disease and gerd artritis gout a history of cancer and we are in winter what do you think

    • jayjayElton

      OMG Maureen, I think you should wait for more evidence. And I hope that you are able to manage all those diseases, sigh. Sometimes life’s rough…

  • Patel

    The whole world had known this for months. I knew vitamin D was critical since the beginning. Only recently are France and britain sending out supplements to people. The research has already been done. “No proof”? The people that have been suppressing this information about vitamin D are murderers.

  • Daniel Castillo

    My Vitamin D was low, so my PCP prescribed me a weekly regimen of Vit D²-50,000 Units. I just wonder if this is a sufficient dose.

    • Justine

      I tested low Vitamin D while I was taking 1000 mg. My Dr told me to take 2000, but because the test showed my D level so low, I’m taking 5k. From what I’ve researched it seems you can get D poisoning from too much! I’d highly suggest you GOGGLE the question before taking that much. Good luck.

    • George stanley

      I was low on d3 my dr. Put me on 2000 iu now im finegeorge

  • Milton Hare

    Vitamin D governs the immune system and has a protective effect against respiratory diseases and infections. It upregulates many genes that are protective against autoimmune diseases. If vitamin D levels are low, the autoimmune system fights blind and quickly malfunctions. The normal serum level is 30 to 79 ng/ml according to Kaiser Permanente, not the 20 ng/ml many naysayers feel is adequate. Given this higher level, a majority of Americans are deficient or at least insufficient. Don’t be afraid to take 4,000 IU (100 mcg) per day, the level the FDA reports as a safe high dose. This dose should get you into the normal range, with many health benefits.

  • Vilma Vaccarezza

    Is it true that too much vitamin can raise calcium in the blood?
    Thank you

  • Dennis Shufelt

    I have taken 50,000 iu of vitamin D for 30 days while in a world wide study and it raised my levels to 40 ng per ml. That is the optimal level. With heart disease or cancer it it best to raise that level to 90 ng per ml!so I took 50,000 iu a day for 30 more days. That got me to 96 ng per ml. Right where I wanted to be. In the summer black people may have to be in the sun 10 times longer to get adequate. vitamin D. This might explain why people of color make up half the people that die from covid19? Vitamin D3 supplements are great but not as good as from the sun. Vitamin D from the sun is “sulfenated” making it much better for you. After flooding my system with high doses I backed off to about 5,000 iu per day to maintain these higher levels. Most people in ICU world wide that have covid 19 are deficient in vitamin D! Vitamin D is no vitamin at all! It is a steroidal hormone that helps regulate over 300 different bodily functions. Vitamin D and your gut flora is your immune system. I nag my black friends about taking vitamin D often. You should too.

  • Michael Richter

    I also had my vitamin D levels laboratory checked and per doctor’s orders took 1000 IU daily. Had it rechecked and still too low. We worked it up to 5000 IU per day to achieve 44ng/ml. My doctor along with many other doctors I spoke with all said the same thing, keep your levels between 40 ng/ml to 60 ng/ml. Also monitor you blood calcium levels via an annual “comprehensive metabolic panel” blood test. Simple and easy blood draw.
    Danial Castillo, Vilma Vaccarezza, 50,000 IU weekly seems to be rather common. Have your blood tested for vitamin D and get the “comprehensive metabolic panel” to measure your calcium and other levels.
    As for the supplements themselves. Buy only reputable brands from reputable retailers. DO NOT buy from online flea markets such as Amazon or EBay as there has been many issues with mis-labeled and counterfeit/fake/defective products with a number of cases in Italy that the individuals who took mis-labeled supplements taking 600,000+ iu daily. Other nutrients that are typically lacking include magnesium and iodine.
    From a 58 year old tri-athlete.

  • John Marchi

    Yes, extremely high doses of Vitamin D3 can cause a buildup of Calcium in the bloodstream. Which is why it is of paramount importance that when one supplements with High D3 Vitamin K2-7 is added. Why? Because Vitamin K2-7 pulls the Calcium out of the bloodstream, and deposits it your bones where is belongs. Why don’t doctors tell us this? Simple. THEY DO NOT KNOW! I asked 11 doctors, ranging from GP’s, ER docs, Internists and an endocrinologist. None of them, not ONE had even heard of Vitamin K2-7! Why not? Because our doctors are trained in Universities where much of their training is funded by Big Pharma. And the last thing Big Pharma wants us to know are the incredible benefits of Vitamin D3. Incidentally, vitamin D3 is NOT even a vitamin, in actual fact it is Hormone, and not many doctors are even aware of that. Watch this video by Dr. John Whitcomb. You will be amazed! Further, towards the end of the video he mentions a story concerning his wife who was told she needed a knee replacement. Instead she read a book by Jeff T Bowles The Amazing Benefits of High Vitamin D3. She followed the advice of Mr. Bowles, and no longer needs a knee replacement. I was also on a waiting list for knee replacement, but not any longer after following the same advice.
    Big Pharma is pulling the wool over our eyes, as well as those of our doctors!

    Watch Dr. Whitcomb‘s video here: And read the book!

    https://youtu.be/jPWCJxyHAg4

  • Ron Becker

    Glad you’re catching up.The study with the supercomputer at y12 national energy lab told us vitamin D was the key to limiting covid months ago.

  • Anon

    I took about 3,000iu vitamin D and I believe it made me have build up of calcium,I was urinating a lot more and had burning feeling so I stopped it went away, I only take about 1,500iu now.

    • Azhar

      Vitamin D3 must be taken with vitamin K2-7 or else you will have a calcium buildup in your blood stream that will clog your arteries.

      • Anon

        The multivitamin I take actually has k2-7 80mcg, is that enough if I’m taking 1,500iu of vitamin D?

  • Cheryl

    I have Crohn’s and have been on Vit D3, 50,000 units once a week, for at least a year. Is this okay?