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Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays critical roles in several physiological processes, including blood pressure regulation, calcium homeostasis, and immune function. Approximately 70 percent of people living in the United States have low vitamin D levels. Findings of a study presented at a 2016 scientific conference suggested that vitamin D insufficiency is associated with increased risk for developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

ARDS is a severe form of acute lung injury characterized by rapid breathing, shortness of breath, and a low blood oxygen level and can lead to respiratory failure and death. It commonly occurs with viral illnesses, including influenza and COVID-19.

The retrospective study, which drew on data collected as part of a multicenter randomized controlled trial, involved 476 patients diagnosed with ARDS. The patients' vitamin D status was assessed upon admission to the hospital. Vitamin D levels less than 20 ng/ml were considered “low.”

The assessments indicated that approximately 90 percent of the patients had low vitamin D levels, even when the data were adjusted for age and severity of illness. The patients with low vitamin D levels spent an average of six days longer on mechanical ventilation compared to patients with higher levels. These findings suggest that poor vitamin D status contributes to increased risk for developing ARDS and influences disease outcomes associated with ventilator needs.

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