Vitamin D prophylaxis could reduce severe forms of covid-19 in black Africans

3 days ago, the news was replete with information regarding the fact that blacks, asians and minority ethnic (BAME) groups are at an increased risk of developing and dying from Covid-19 than their caucasian counterparts. Reasons that were suggested to be responsible include, among others:




1) low socioeconomic status 2) multi-family and multigenerational households 3) disproportionate employment in low income jobs 4) disproportionate higher rates of co-existing illnesses such as angina, diabetes, kidney and other diseases https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/bame-covid-19-deaths-what-do-we-know-rapid-data-evidence-review/ Although BAME forms about 14% of the population of England and Wales, about 33% of admissions to the intensive care unit for Covid-19 has been registered among them. Looking at the data closer, the ratio of deaths from covid-19 was highest among black Africans - 4.3 times than would be expected. Data from the United States also confirms that fact that Black Americans are 2.4 times more likely to die from covid-19 than their Latino counterparts. The reasons for the increased risk are not known, but suggested as above. More research is required to elucidate above claims. Anecdotal evidence however suggests otherwise from blacks living in developing countries. There is more overcrowding, lower paid jobs, community living as well as co-morbidities in black Africans living in Africa and yet there is no corroborating evidence to the increased deaths and critical illness from covid-19. Certainly, some other factors may be playing. Observational studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency may be playing some role here. For example: Evidence exists to confirm that vitamin D supports immunity of individuals and reduces the incidence of flu in individuals.


There is also evidence that blacks living in the West have lower vitamin D levels than their white counterparts. This is because the melanin pigmentation requires a higher amount of sun exposure to support vitamin D production than can be supported by the reduced amount of sunshine in the West. Besides, the black population do not often engage in sunbaths and or other outdoor activities like their white counterparts.




A cross sectional study has shown that African Americans had significantly lower vitamin D levels than their white counterparts (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265693/).


After studying global data from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, researchers have discovered a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200507121353.htm).


This could explain some of the observations in the differential racial deaths. Vitamin D strengthens innate immunity and prevents overactive immune responses.


Being a food supplement and an essential vitamin, it is the recommendation of the writer that black Africans who do not have adequate exposure to sunlight should embark on a drive to ensure adequate vitamin D intake.


Sources of vitamin D include:


  • oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel

  • red meat

  • liver

  • egg yolks

  • fortified foods – such as most fat spreads and some breakfast cereals


How much vitamin D does an adult need?


During the month of september and March, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.

But since it's difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during those periods.

Between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can get all the vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from a balanced diet.


People at risk of vitamin D deficiencies:

  • are not often outdoors – for example, if you're frail or housebound

  • are in an institution like a care home

  • usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors

If you have dark skin – for example you have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background – you may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight.

You should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.


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