The Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH) is encouraging all members of the community to boost their vitamin D levels as a preventive measure to avert COVID-19 infection and promote overall immunity.
The DoH has issued the advisory on the basis of findings of a local study that demonstrates a strong connection between Vitamin D levels in the body and COVID-19 severity and mortality rates among a sample group of infected people in the UAE.
Conducted by an Emirati research scholar Dr. Habiba Al Safar and Dr. Fatme Al Anouti, Associate Professor of Clinical Biochemistry at Zayed University, the newly published study has received approval from the Abu Dhabi Health Research Ethics Committee.
Furthermore, several international pieces of research have demonstrated the correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and the severity of viral infections, such as influenza. This development has come in addition to the mounting global evidence highlighting the common association between lower Vitamin D levels and the risk of contracting COVID-19 and deaths among hospitalised infected patients.
Led by Dr. Al Safar and Dr. Al Anouti, the local study examined samples of 522 UAE residents, aged 18 years and above, infected with COVID-19. The study concluded that about 59% of patients who had moderate to severe vitamin D deficiency experienced higher symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
A majority of patients who suffered from severe COVID-19 symptoms were older in age and more obese compared to others as per the study. The outcome of this study is in line with previous studies that have demonstrated associations with age, obesity and vitamin D deficiency as key factors for COVID-19 infection. Therefore, the local study concludes that increasing the levels of Vitamin D in the body can significantly protect from COVID-19 infection.
Talking about the study, Dr. Asma Ibrahim Al Mannaei, Executive Director Research & Innovation at Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, underlined that it presents promising results to better understand the importance of Vitamin D in boosting immunity and preventing COVID-19 infection. "This local study by Emirati research scholar Dr. Habiba Al Safar and Dr. Fatme Al Anouti, Zayed University Professor, presents promising results to better understand the protective effect of vitamin D against COVID-19, both as a preventive tool against infection but also may play a role in boosting the immunity of patients during infection," Dr Al Mannaei said.
The DoH has further urged all members of the community to understand the importance of Vitamin D supplementation as a preventive measure against COVID-19 as well as maintaining the health and safety of the UAE society.
Dr Al Mannaei noted that amid the ongoing national efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific research is a top priority for Abu Dhabi authorities to ensure easy and quick access to necessary information. It further improves public education and awareness in order to better deal with the challenges faced by all community members.
Dr Habiba Al Safar is an Associate Professor at the Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology and an Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Director of the Khalifa University Center for Biotechnology. Dr. Fatme Al Anouti is an Associate Professor of Clinical Biochemistry, Department of Public Health and Nutrition at Zayed University