The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know if for almost a year. It has infected approximately 25 million Americans and killed over 400,000. Many have mild cases and recover on their own, and others have severe reactions that put them in the hospital fighting for their lives on ventilators. The impact of COVID-19 varies dramatically between individuals due to variability in the immune system’s ability to fight it. The human immune system is complex, intelligent, and powerful, but some simple and common nutritional deficiencies can weaken immunity. For many, a simple strategy to bolster immunity is to get magnesium and vitamin D levels back into the optimal range.
The mineral magnesium activates vitamin D in the body, and vitamin D helps strengthen the immune system. A new paper co-authored by cardiovascular research scientist James DiNicolantonio, PharmD, and cardiologist James O’Keefe, MD, of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute suggests that increasing levels of magnesium and vitamin D may help COVID-19 patients successfully fight off the virus.
Approximately half of adults in the United States do not consume enough magnesium, which impairs the immune system. Magnesium improves the white blood cells’ ability to seek out and destroy germs. Low magnesium can lead to a cytokine storm, during which the body attacks its own cells and tissues instead of fighting off infection. This creates inflammation, cell and tissue damage, narrowed blood vessels, and blood clots. During this COVID-19 pandemic, vitamin D insufficiency has been seen in over 80 percent of patients with severe cases of the coronavirus.
A study conducted in Singapore between January and April 2020 tested 43 COVID-19 patients aged 50 or above. A group of 17 patients received magnesium, vitamin D, and B12 daily, while the other 26 did not. Those who received supplementation had an 87 percent lower risk of requiring oxygen therapy and an 85 percent lower risk of needing intensive care.
Another study tested 40 COVID-19 patients who were asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. Some took vitamin D supplements for two weeks until they achieved a healthy blood level, others took a placebo. After three weeks, three times as many patients in the vitamin D group tested negative for COVID-19 than those who took the placebo.
Low levels of magnesium and vitamin D are a common characteristic in a majority of patients with COVID-19. Getting these levels back into the normal range is a safe and inexpensive over-the-counter treatment that can strengthen immune function. Dr. DiNicolantonio’s and Dr. O’Keefe’s paper concluded that magnesium and vitamin D should get special consideration in the general population during the pandemic.
The complete research article is published in the January/February 2021 issue of Missouri Medicine.
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