Researchers from the Netherlands explore a possible link between a nutrient deficiency and Covid-19 deaths in the hopes of raising awareness about how dietary change can affect the disease.
Covid-19 patients who’ve been admitted into the intensive care unit or have died from complications have been found to have insufficient levels of a vitamin commonly found in spinach, eggs, and cheese.
Patients staying at the Canisius Wilhelmina hospital in the Dutch city of Nijmegen have showed the benefits of vitamin K after scientists discovered a link between deficiency and worst Covid-19 outcomes.
It’s a well-known fact that Covid-19 causes blood clotting, which can weaken the elastic fibres in the lungs. Similar to how heart problems arise from arteries stiffening, lung tissue cannot function properly without this elasticity.
Vitamin K, which is ingested through food and absorbed in the gut, plays an important role in the production of proteins that regulate clotting, which help protect against lung disease.
The Dutch researchers such as Dr Rob Janssen, a scientist working on the study, said that in light of the initial discoveries he would encourage people to consume a healthy intake of vitamin K. The only exception is those who are on blood-thinning medications such as warfarin.
Janssen said: “We are in a terrible, horrible situation in the world. We do have an intervention which does not have any side effects, even less than a placebo. There is one major exception: people on anti-clotting medication. It is completely safe in other people.
“My advice would be to take those vitamin K supplements. Even if it does not help against severe Covid-19, it is good for your blood vessels, bones and probably also for the lungs.”
He also added: “We have [vitamin] K1 and K2. K1 is in spinach, broccoli, green vegetables, blueberries, all types of fruit and vegetables. K2 is better absorbed by the body. It is in Dutch cheese, I have to say, and French cheese as well.”
Fermented foods like sauerkraut or natto are both particularly high in vitamin K2.
“I have worked with a Japanese scientist in London and she said it was remarkable that in the regions in Japan where they eat a lot of natto, there is not a single person to die of Covid-19; so that is something to dive into, I would say.”
The research, undertaken in partnership with the Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht, one of Europe’s largest heart and vascular research institutes, studied 134 patients hospitalized for Covid-19 between 12 March and 11 April, alongside a control group of 184 age-matched patients who did not have the disease.
Jona Walk, a second researcher on the study, which was submitted for peer review, said: “We want to take very sick Covid-19 patients and randomise so that they get a placebo or vitamin K, which is very safe to use in the general population. We want to give vitamin K in a significantly high enough dose that we really will activate [the protein] that is so important for protecting the lungs, and check if it is safe.”