SC researchers studying effects of vitamin D on coronavirus symptoms

VIDEO: Can vitamin D fight COVID-19 symptoms

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina are looking to vitamin D as a possible solution to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bruce Hollis and Carol Wagner have been studying the effects of vitamin D for years but recently switched gears to look at its effects on the coronavirus. For the past few years, they were looking at how vitamin D levels affected pregnancy.

“When you study vitamin D in pregnancy, you see racial disparities,” said Hollis. “Vitamin D is a poster child for disparities because it’s not really a vitamin, it’s a hormone initially made in your skin.”

When Hollis and Wagner saw how the coronavirus was heavily impacting minority communities, they knew they needed to get their expertise involved.

“The stark differences in COVID between the African American population, and somewhat Latino, and Caucasians is absolutely stunning,” added Hollis. "Those minorities are suffering by far the brunt of this affliction.”

They hope to launch a study in June with hundreds of people throughout South Carolina.

“We’re recruiting throughout the state. We really do also want to include elderly because they’re also at risk,” Wagner said.

The latest numbers from SCDHEC show African American cases of COVID-19 make up about 44% of total cases, even though African Americans only make up about 27% of the state’s population. Research shows melanin decreases the amount of sunlight that can get in the body, and therefore affects the amount of vitamin D made inside the bodies of people who have darker skin.

“Vitamin D is probably the classic thing to look at for disparities,” Hollis added.

As they begin the new study in a few weeks, both researchers say you should be taking vitamin D supplements right now, no matter your age or ethnicity. While it is good to get some sun, it’s not enough for what your body typically needs. They hope the study will show people with sufficient vitamin D in their blood can avoid contracting the virus, or if they do contract it, that symptoms will be light.

“Our recommendation for supplementation is 4,000-6,000 units of vitamin D a day. Vitamin D is very cheap you can get it anywhere... By taking that amount, your blood levels will be right in the area that offers maximum protection against many things including this virus,” Hollis said.

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