Vitamin D deficiency in minority populations contributes to outsize COVID-19 burden

A new grassroots education campaign out of Organic and Natural health is encouraging at-risk communities to learn their vitamin D levels and take action.

August 18, 2020

4 Min Read
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Many factors contribute to the vast health disparities reported in COVID-19 for obese people and multiple Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups. Out of the many contributing biological, socioeconomic and behavioral factors, Organic and Natural Health Association says one of these risk factors, vitamin D deficiency, could rapidly be reversed if more health education were disseminated to key communities.

As part of its mission to advance nutrient research and educate the public to take charge of their health, Organic and Natural Health has set a grassroots education campaign in motion called “Get On My Level” that will highlight the proven health benefits of vitamin D. It will also encourage people in communities most at risk to know their vitamin D level by either asking their doctor or measuring and monitoring their own levels at home using a test kit and vitamin D calculator from Organic and Natural Health research partner, GrassrootsHealth, to determine how much vitamin D is needed in order to reach the desired therapeutic levels of 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/L).

In an article by The National Institutes of Health entitled “Outcomes of COVID-19: disparities in obesity and by ethnicity/race,” vitamin D deficiency is identified as an important biologic hypothesis for observed associations between ethnicity, obesity and worse COVID-19 outcomes. The researchers stated that vitamin D supplementation in randomized, placebo-controlled studies has demonstrated reduced risk for acute respiratory tract infection.

Associations between vitamin D deficiency and acute respiratory distress syndrome have also been reported. With the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. population being the highest with Blacks (82.1%), followed by Hispanics (69.2%) and obesity, poor health status, hypertension and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels all being reported as compacting factors, the NIH reports vitamin D deficiency as being one plausible explanation for a higher COVID-19 burden in these groups.

“We have piles of information showing that vitamin D supplementation can drastically improve your health on many levels,” said Ken Redcross, MD, author of “Bond: The 4 Cornerstones of a Lasting and Caring Relationship with Your Doctor,” and scientific adviser for Organic and Natural Health.

“The issue is not whether the information on vitamin D is available or accurate, it’s more about how and to whom it is being delivered. That’s where the gap is so obvious, therefore, I’m urgently calling upon on my medical colleagues to not withhold or distort this valuable information so that we can change the trajectory of health for families, especially in Black and Latino communities where the need is the greatest during this upcoming and complicated flu season. You can’t eat your way to a significant vitamin D level and converting vitamin D from the sun has always been a challenge for those with melanated skin designed to block vitamin D absorption. We need to advocate for vitamin D supplementation. It’s the most direct, cost-effective and practical way to improve everyone’s vitamin D level, without any racial barriers.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19, stating, “To achieve health equity, barriers must be removed so that everyone has a fair opportunity to be as healthy as possible.”

Some of the factors the CDC lists as putting racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19 include: discrimination, healthcare access and utilization, occupation, housing, education, income and wealth gaps. A newly published article in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation concludes that vitamin D deficiency increased the risk of mortality in COVID-19 patients. 

Data analysis by the working group of Prabowo Raharusun, MD, shows a correlation of COVID-19 death rates based on vitamin D levels. The retrospective review shows that a vitamin D level of 19 ng/ml or less equals a death rate of 100%, while vitamin D levels of 34 ng/ml or higher equals a 0% death rate from COVID-19. Additionally a retrospective study found COVID-19 ICU patients had higher rates of vitamin D deficiency compared to other admits.

“Out of all the factors contributing to COVID-19 deaths for minority communities, the one factor that’s easily controlled is our vitamin D levels,” said Karen Howard, CEO and executive director of Organic and Natural Health. “We are urgently asking everyone who has a loved one, to challenge them to ‘Get On My Level,’ and turn these statistics around. Vitamin D supplementation is affordable, accessible and the outcomes are proven. Our only current challenge seems to be education, and that’s something we can proactively affect.”

As part of their grassroots effort, Organic and Natural Health has re-launched its website with the “Get On My Level” challenge, which includes validated health facts on vitamin D; statistics on vitamin D levels and COVID-19 outcomes; educational materials to share on social media; and an easy-to-use vitamin D calculator to monitor and improve your vitamin D levels. Links to at-home vitamin D test kits are also available on the site from GrassrootsHealth. Currently 40-75% of the world’s population and nearly 90% of all Americans are vitamin D deficient.

Source: Organic and Natural Health

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