There have been some theories going around that redheads are less likely to get COVID-19, or will have fewer symptoms if they do test positive. We wanted to know if there’s any truth behind this and where this idea came from. Here’s everything we know.
Why and how has this idea come about?
The reason this theory came about has to do with redheads’ natural vitamin D production. Vitamin D is known to boost the immune system, and when fighting any sickness, immune health plays a huge role. Redheads create their own vitamin D due to the fact that we can’t sufficiently absorb naturally occurring vitamin D. The theory is that because redheads create their own vitamin D, and vitamin D can help to boost the immune system, redheads must have higher immune systems and therefore are not affected the same way by COVID-19.
Is there any truth to it?
To get to the bottom of it, we spoke with the Clinical Director of LifeMD, David Culpepper, MD. He has practiced general internal medicine for 30+ years, with extensive experience in both private practice and hospital settings. “It’s an interesting theory, and the logic is not without merit.”
“I would go so far as to say that it would be worth compiling some data on the proportion of redheads affected by COVID versus the rest of the population. If it did turn out that redheads had a preventative advantage due to their production of Vitamin D, perhaps someone could research if there would be a way to duplicate or enhance that effect in the population as a whole. Also, if it turned out that redheads’ vitamin D production provided an overall advantage in terms of immune system function, it would stand to reason that this would apply to all illnesses, not just COVID. As far as I know, there has not been any research into whether redheads’ vitamin D production has provided any advantage statistically in terms of disease diagnosis.”
With little to no studies done on this topic, we must also look into those with vitamin D deficiencies. Studies do say about half the US population is vitamin D deficient, and yes that does include some redheads. Those most likely to have vitamin D deficiencies are also those who are most likely to get COVID-19 or have a severe experience when testing positive. This is because vitamin D deficiencies often means a lower immune system and a higher risk of experiencing increased symptoms.
To Dr. Culpepper’s point, more studies will have to be done since redheads do make their own vitamin D. So many questions remain unanswered: how much vitamin D do redheads really make? Is it enough to fight off a virus like COVID-19? Do redhead’s truly have an advantage when it comes to their immune system?
The bottom line
At the end of the day, anyone can contract COVID-19. The rumor that redheads are less likely to get it is creating a harmful sense of security. The only things we know reduce the risk of testing positive for COVID-19 are getting vaccinated, getting booster shots, keeping your distance, and wearing masks.
Rock it like a Redhead!