The vitamin D & COVID show: NutraIngredients reveals top 10 stories of 2021

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

NutraIngredients reveals top 10 stories of 2021

Related tags: Top 10, Vitamin d, COVID, COVID-19

In a year dominated by COVID-19, the countdown for 2021 has been dominated by stories about the gut, vitamins, minerals and anything else linked to supporting immune health and warding off the virus’ effects.

For many in the nutrition industry, 2021 was a year of adjusting to a new way of working and doing business that while unfamiliar demonstrated the resilience and agile nature of the sector in readiness to bounce back in 2022.

Here, NutraIngredients presents the 10 most read stories of 2021.

10. Ireland urged to deploy vit D in COVID-19 fight as calls heighten

We kick off at number 10, where February of this year saw Europe in the midst of lockdown and governments struggling to get to grips with the virus’ unrelenting march across the region.

Calls to include vitamin D as part of a national strategy to tackle COVID-19 were suggested​ as health experts pushed Ireland’s government to consider and act upon the latest evidence.

In an online meeting of the Joint Health Committee, Dr Daniel McCartney highlighted a lack of official action in the face of research suggesting a protective role of vitamin D against COVID-19.

9. UK PM urged, ‘Look to Andalusia’s vit D use for COVID-19’

Vit D3

More UK government news as David Davis MP urged UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to follow the example of Andalusia​ and distribute vitamin D supplements to populations most at risk of contracting COVID-19.

In Prime Minister Questions (PMQs), Conservative backbencher Davis pointed to the Spanish region’s distribution of calcifediol to care home residents in November.

Latest figures from Andalusia highlighted a drop in deaths per million from COVID-19 from 187 in November to just 11 at the start of January - an 82% drop.

In response, the Prime Minister said the government would continue to monitor all the evidence about the efficacy of vitamin D and the mentioned treatments

8. Report raises concern over supplement use in COVID-19

January featured a report​ that stated global use of supplements increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet many admitted letting daily dietary habits slip, suggesting consumers had fallen prey to marketing misinformation online.

The report, published in October 2020​, highlighted sales of dietary supplements increased dynamically in the wake of COVID-19, with some types recording triple-digit growth rates.

Conversely, market data also showed people had worsened their diet with many gaining weight​ during the pandemic.

7. Nutrition a possible factor in Covid-19 vaccination efficacy

Almost at the halfway point now and back to all things virus-related as researchers highlighted nutrition as a possible factor influencing the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine​.

The review (pre-print) emphasised the importance of a healthy diet, particularly a plant-based one with high antioxidant and high-fibre content, as a consideration in bolstering the immune response to a vaccine.

6. Long-term study alludes to artificial sweeteners and cognitive decline link

Cognitive health 4

A story that is neither vitamin D or COVID-related. Also, the most recent story on the list, as results of a Spanish study​ this month appeared to corroborate a link between artificial sweeteners and impaired metabolism and oxidative stress, which can exacerbate cognitive decline (CD).

The International Sweeteners Association (ISA) responded by suggesting the findings were misleading as they failed to provide evidence of a causal relationship between artificial sweeteners and CD. In addition, the results were arguable due to study limitations.

5. DSM responds to immunity demands with fast acting vitamin D

At the start of the year, DSM launched a fast-acting vitamin D​ supplement which it said could help consumers reach optimum levels within days, rather than months.

The firm’s 'fast-acting' form of vitamin D3 'ampli-D' (aka calcifediol) came in response to a growing portfolio of evidence linking vitamin D with COVID-19 symptom severity​.

“Complementing a healthy, balanced diet with a nutritional supplement – like vitamin D, preferably calcifediol – is a safe, effective and low-cost way to support healthier futures across the world, as it helps to promote an optimal immune response and manage the risk and severity of infectious diseases,”​ said Peter Van Dael, Senior Vice President of Nutrition Science & Advocacy at DSM.

4. Vitamin D 'necessary' for COVID-19 treatment, says Spanish society

More vitamin D-related news as the Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology stated that vitamin D supplementation should be a standardised practice​ to treat COVID-19 in hospitalised older patients.

The position statement ​said there may not be much evidence on specific dose requirements but the link between vitamin D levels and virus severity was clear and the global crisis required fast action.

3. “Positive associations” found between vitamin D and cognition in elderly

vit and elderly

A vitamin D theme has been firm established at this point with the story in bronze medal position. In September NutraIngredients reported on a study that provided a starting point​ for developing RNIs (Reference Nutrient Intakes) for vitamin D and cognitive performance.

“The study found that dietary vitamin D intake, serum total 25(OH)D and 25(OH)D3 concentration were negatively associated with low cognitive performance and risk, and linear L-shaped dose-response relationships between them were identified,”​ ​wrote the researchers in the journal Nutrients​​.

2. MP criticised over vit D study as proof of COVID efficacy

More COVID-19 news, this time in the UK as Member of Parliament (MP), David Davis was criticised for highlighting a preprint study that suggested patients hospitalised with COVID-19 that received calcifediol treatment at the time of hospitalisation significantly reduced ICU admission and mortality.

His comments, which described the calcifediol, or activated vitamin D as “a very cheap and very safe therapy,” ​came in for criticism by prominent scientists active in COVID-19 research.

The criticism centred around issues with the methodology, protocol procedures and even registration status of the trial. The study appeared in the journal SSRN​/The Lancet.

The study has since been removed​due to concerns about the description of the research in this paper.

1. Study backs link between vitamin D and COVID-19 severity

vit d and covid severity

2021’s most read story was unsurprisingly a vitamin D and COVID-19-related story, where a study​ of elderly COVID-19 patients concluded that vitamin D serum deficiency was associated with more severe lung symptoms, longer disease duration and higher risk of death.

The detection of low vitamin D levels in younger COVID-19 patients with less comorbidities further suggested vitamin D deficiency as a crucial risk factor at any age.

The report thought the results were likely linked to the role played by the biologically active metabolite of vitamin D [1,25(OH)2-D] that as steroid hormone is involved in the regulation of growth and differentiation of various immune cell types.

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