Vitamin D may be protective against COVID-19 and deficiency could partially explain why black Americans are dying from the virus at a higher rate, according to an article written by Dr. Vatsal G. Thakkar and published Thursday by the Wall Street Journal.
Dr. Thakkar cites a recent research article, “The Role of Vitamin D in Suppressing Cytokine Storm in COVID-19 Patients and Associated Mortality,” as well as other evidence showing the various health benefits of Vitamin D, risks of deficiency, and impacts of supplementation for African Americans in particular. The recently published data found that Italy, Spain and France, the countries with the highest mortality rates from coronavirus, also had the lowest average vitamin D levels.
“Vitamin D is produced by a reaction in the skin to the ultraviolet rays in sunlight,” Dr. Thakker wrote. “Many Americans are low in vitamin D, but those with darker skin are at a particular disadvantage because melanin inhibits the vitamin’s production. As an Indian-American, my skin type is Fitzpatrick IV, or “moderate brown.” Compared with my white friends, I need double or triple the sun exposure to synthesize the same amount of vitamin D, so I supplement with 5,000 international units of vitamin D3 daily, which maintains my level in the normal range. Most African-Americans are Fitzpatrick type V or VI, so they would need even more.
“Black Americans are also twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as whites. Here, too, we find an immune connection. Insulin resistance, the harbinger of Type 2 diabetes, appears linked to high levels of circulating cytokines, the same pro-inflammatory proteins implicated in Covid-19 mortality.”