The Benefits of Vitamin D Supplementation for Athletes: Better Performance and Reduced Risk of COVID-19
Grant, William B.
Rockwell, Michelle S.
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The COVID-19 pandemic is having major economic and personal consequences for collegiate and professional sports. Sporting events have been canceled or postponed, and even when baseball and basketball seasons resumed in the United States recently, no fans were in attendance. As play resumed, several players developed COVID-19, disrupting some of the schedules. A hypothesis now under scientific consideration is that taking vitamin supplements to raise serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations could quickly reduce the risk and/or severity of COVID-19. Several mechanisms have been identified through which vitamin D could reduce the risks of infection and severity, death, and long-haul effects of COVID-19: (1) inducing production of cathelicidin and defensins to reduce the survival and replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; (2) reducing inflammation and the production of proinflammatory cytokines and risk of the “cytokine storm” that damages the epithelial layer of the lungs, heart, vascular system, and other organs; and (3) increasing production of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, thus limiting the amount of angiotensin II available to the virus to cause damage. Clinical trials have confirmed that vitamin D supplementation reduces risk of acute respiratory tract infections, and approximately 30 observational studies have shown that incidence, severity, and death from COVID-19 are inversely correlated with serum 25(OH)D concentrations. Vitamin D supplementation is already familiar to many athletes and sports teams because it improves athletic performance and increases playing longevity. Thus, athletes should consider vitamin D supplementation to serve as an additional means by which to reduce risk of COVID-19 and its consequences.