Black people are four times more likely to die from Covid-19

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Is there a link between vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 deaths among the black population?

Figures from the Office of National statistics show that black people are four times more likely to die of COVID-19 than their white counterparts. The difference in the impact of the virus was caused not only by pre-existing differences in communities’ wealth, health, education and living conditions

Bangladeshi and Pakistani males were 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white males and females from those ethnic groups were 1.6 times more likely to die from the virus than their white counterparts. The risk of Covid-19 death for people from Chinese and mixed ethnic groups was found to be similar to that for white people.

‘These results show that the difference between ethnic groups in Covid-19 mortality is partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained,’ the ONS said.

That difference might be down to the fact that one in five people in the UK are now low in vitamin D. According to national surveys in the UK, across the population approximately 1 in 5 people have low vitamin D levels (defined as serum levels below 25 nmol/L).

In addition to causing rickets, which is now on the increase in the UK, vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to respiratory infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and bronchiolitis.

Vitamin D3 has been shown to be vital in maintaining healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis but a recent study by the The University of Western Autstralia, the Bussleton Health Study and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital has found that low levels of vitamin D deficiency were also associated with respiratory illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis, and respiratory symptoms including wheezing and chest tightness.

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The investigators found vitamin D plays an important role in respiratory health through its effects on lung development and structure, respiratory muscle strength, inflammation and immune response to respiratory pathogens.

The current vitamin D deficiency in the UK might be explained for a number of reasons – children are spending more time indoors instead of running around outside; more British women are covering themselves up with sun cream, the burqa or niqab and some of our ageing population is housebound. It’s also a geographical problem because in northern climes, the sun isn’t strong enough during the winter months for our bodies to manufacture enough vitamin D, so we need to catch those rays during the summer.

If you’re Caucasian, you can boost your reserves of vitamin D during the summer, but if you’re African, African-Caribbean and South Asian, your protective melanin means that it takes much longer for your body to make vitamin D.

We make 90% of our vitamin D through sunlight and only 10% is from our diets. It is the only vitamin that we can’t get enough of in food. Although it’s available in oily fish, eggs and added to breakfast cereals, spreads and powdered milk, our bodies manufacture most of it when we directly expose our skin to sunlight. And in Northern latitude countries, continuous sunlight is a rare occurrence. Meaning that much of the time, a large percentage of the UK population is vitamin D deficient.

Foods rich in vitamin D | Image by Shutterstock

According to the British Nutrition Foundation, people from BAME groups should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms vitamin D throughout the year to boost their vitamin D levels.

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In his YouTube video Vitamin D and Immunity, Dr John Campbell, agrees with recent findings and says that, ‘Vitamin D may reduce the risk of contracting respiratory tract bacterial/viral infections and could also make those infections less serious.’ He goes on to add that anyone with a darker skin living in the Northern hemisphere should consider taking vitamin D supplements to minimise against infection.

See Dr John Campbell’s video below:

What experts all agree on, is that vitamin D is vital, not only in bone health, but in other body functions, giving improved resistance to certain diseases. And in the fight against Covid-19, this vitamin could well play an important role.

MORE READING: ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH VITAMIN D?

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