Vitamin D Protect Against COVID-19
COVID-19 or coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It manifests as mild to moderate respiratory illness in most people who may not require any special treatment. Certain high-risk groups, such as older people and people with underlying health conditions (chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases), are more likely to get seriously ill.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people in huge numbers in the world. Researchers are working tirelessly to find preventive and curative options for the disease. Several medications, supplements and lifestyle changes are being proposed to prevent or treat COVID-19. One such preventive agent is vitamin D.
Vitamin D or “calciferol” is a type of fat-soluble vitamin. It is naturally present in certain foods, such as fatty fish, beef, cheese, egg yolk and mushroom. It is added to certain foods (vitamin D fortified foods) and is available as a dietary supplement. Vitamin D can also be formed in the body when the skin is exposed to the ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight.
Studies suggest that vitamin D may help protect against COVID-19. The protective effects of vitamin D could be
- Reduced risk of COVID-19 infection.
- Reduced risk of developing serious symptoms of COVID-19.
- Faster recovery from COVID-19.
A study showed that vitamin D supplements when given in higher doses may help prevent COVID-19 infection, especially in African Americans. Research suggests that a serum vitamin D level of 30 ng/mL may lower the risk of COVID-19 infections. Most of the findings suggest that the protective effect was observed when the serum vitamin D levels were more than what is generally considered sufficient.
To explain the reason for the possible protective effects of vitamin D against COVID-19 infection, one must know the role of vitamin D in the body. Apart from maintaining bone, teeth and muscle health, vitamin D plays a big role in boosting immunity. Low levels of vitamin D may put people at risk of several infections, particularly respiratory infections, such as COVID-19. A study reports that people who took vitamin D supplements had a lower risk of getting acute respiratory infections.
There are two major ways through which vitamin D is believed to protect against COVID-19 infection:
- It enhances or boosts immunity against various pathogens (virus and bacteria). Thus, the body gets prepared to fight the invading pathogen.
- It calms down the pulmonary inflammatory responses. This means it reduces the likelihood of exaggerated inflammation in the lungs. This protects against serious symptoms.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that excess of this vitamin can build up to toxic levels in the body. Thus, do not take the supplements without consulting a doctor. A person can naturally get vitamin D by sitting in the sun for 5 to 10 minutes on some or most days of the week. Keep your arms, legs or back exposed without applying sunscreen when sitting in the sun. If there is a skin condition, ask the doctor before exposing the skin to the sun. Have enough vitamin D-rich foods, such as fatty fish (tuna and salmon), egg yolk, cheese or vitamin D fortified foods, such as certain dairy products, soy milk and cereals. Adults who are aged 70 years of age or younger need 600 international units (UI) of vitamin D each day through their diet. People over 70 have a recommended dietary dose of vitamin D is 800 IU each day. Supplements containing 1000-2000 IU of vitamin D can be safely taken each day by most people. There are weekly vitamin D supplements available as well that can be taken after consulting the physician. Intake of vitamin D above 4000 IU per day is generally considered harmful.
Although research goes in favor of vitamin D as a protective substance against COVID-19, the role of social distancing, wearing masks properly and practicing respiratory hygiene can never be undermined. Get vaccinated if eligible. If tested positive for COVID-19, contact a health care provider rather than self-medicating.
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Hughes DA, Norton R. Vitamin D and Respiratory Health. Clin Exp Immunol. 2009;158(1):20-25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2759054/
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