Antarctic research may shed light on immune responses to coronavirus

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Low blood levels of vitamin D might heighten people’s odds for severe or even fatal COVID-19, research shows.

More than 80 percent of 200 COVID-19 patients in a hospital in Spain have vitamin D deficiency, according to a new study published in Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

More and more studies are coming out daily to support this finding. And now NASA is hoping to shed some light on the role vitamin D potentially plays in the immune system’s response to viruses.

The research is out in a recent paper by NASA’s Nutritional Biochemistry Laboratory and published in The Journal of Nutrition. The findings may provide insight into reducing the risk of severe immune system responses to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease.

The human body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is a hormone the kidneys produce that controls blood calcium concentration and impacts the immune system.

Well, in spacecraft, or during the winter in Antarctica, crew members don’t get any sunlight exposure. This makes Antarctica a great place to study vitamin D in astronauts.

Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system, which defends the body from outside intruders, such as bacteria and viruses. NASA-funded research in the Antarctic showed that crew members with lower vitamin D levels and higher indications of stress had higher rates of virus reactivation.

Some researchers believe sunlight, consumption of vitamin D rich foods, and adequate dietary supplements containing vitamin D may support immune system function and decrease the impact of virus reactivation.

But at this time, more research is needed.

(sources: NASA, Sci Tech Daily, Web MD)

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