A deficiency in vitamin D may escalate the probability of experiencing prolonged COVID-19 effects, commonly known as long COVID, suggests a new study presented at the 25th European Congress of Endocrinology. The research primarily points out that long COVID victims, especially those suffering from ‘brain fog’, exhibit lower levels of vitamin D.
The study, conducted in Istanbul for the European Congress of Endocrinology, indicates a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and the heightened risk of long COVID. Therefore, it proposes that individuals must have their vitamin D levels evaluated post COVID-19 recovery.
Long COVID, alternatively known as post-COVID-19 syndrome, represents a novel health anomaly characterized by lingering COVID-19 symptoms for more than 12 weeks following the initial infection. It is estimated to affect between 50-70% of those hospitalized due to COVID-19. However, the understanding of long COVID continues to remain underdeveloped despite its commonality.
While it is identified that low vitamin D levels are a risk factor for severe outcomes in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including scenarios involving intubation and mechanical ventilation or death, its specific role in long COVID still requires further exploration.
In the current study, funded by Abiogen Pharma SpA, researchers from Vita-Salute San Raffaele University and IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital in Milan examined 100 patients aged 51-70, inclusive of those with and without long COVID. They monitored their vitamin D levels at their initial hospital admission for COVID-19 and again six months post-discharge, noticing lower levels in patients suffering from long COVID. This effect was even more pronounced in patients who reported ‘brain fog’ symptoms, such as confusion, forgetfulness, and decreased concentration, during the six-month check-up.
The study involved patients without any bone disorders and only those hospitalized due to COVID-19, excluding patients who were admitted to the intensive care units (ICUs). It matched the two subsets of patients, those with and without long COVID, based on their age, gender, pre-existing chronic conditions, and the severity of COVID-19. Lead investigator, Professor Andrea Giustina, stated, “Due to various confounding factors, earlier studies exploring the relationship between vitamin D and long COVID were unable to reach a definitive conclusion. However, our study’s highly-controlled approach aids us in gaining a deeper understanding of the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and long COVID.”
While Professor Giustina acknowledges the requirement for larger-scale studies to affirm this correlation, his team is now working towards determining if vitamin D supplements could potentially diminish the risk of long COVID. He states, “Our study signifies that COVID-19 patients deficient in vitamin D are more prone to long COVID, but it’s uncertain whether vitamin D supplementation could alleviate the symptoms or entirely mitigate this risk.”
Reference: “Low Vitamin D Levels Are Associated With Long COVID Syndrome in COVID-19 Survivor” by Luigi di Filippo, Stefano Frara, Fabrizio Nannipieri, Alice Cotellessa, Massimo Locatelli, Patrizia Rovere Querini, and Andrea Giustina, 13 April 2023, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Vitamin D and Long COVID
What is long COVID?
Long COVID, also known as post-COVID-19 syndrome, refers to a condition where individuals experience persistent COVID-19 symptoms for over 12 weeks after the initial infection. It affects a significant percentage of individuals who have been hospitalized due to COVID-19.
According to recent research, there appears to be a connection between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of long COVID. Individuals with lower levels of vitamin D, especially those experiencing symptoms like ‘brain fog’, are more likely to develop long COVID.
How was the research conducted?
The study involved examining 100 patients aged 51-70 who had been hospitalized for COVID-19, both with and without long COVID. The researchers measured their vitamin D levels upon admission and again six months after discharge. The study carefully matched the two groups based on age, sex, pre-existing chronic diseases, and COVID-19 severity.
What were the findings of the study?
The study found that patients with long COVID had lower vitamin D levels compared to those without. This correlation was more pronounced in individuals experiencing ‘brain fog’ symptoms, such as confusion, forgetfulness, and poor concentration, during the six-month follow-up.
What are the implications of these findings?
The research suggests that individuals recovering from COVID-19 should have their vitamin D levels checked after recovery, as low levels may increase the risk of developing long COVID. However, further studies are needed to confirm the link and determine if vitamin D supplementation could help reduce the risk or alleviate symptoms of long COVID.
More about Vitamin D and Long COVID
- European Congress of Endocrinology: Link to the congress website
- The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: Link to the article