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Evidence is slowly mounting as to the effectiveness of vitamin D in combating the deadly coronavirus. If what we see on the internet and news is to be believed, we can prevent contracting Covid-19 by upping our doses of vitamin D. However, with the lack of enough scientific evidence to support these facts, should we rush to medical supplies outlets to restock our vitamin D supplies? In this article, we try to separate the myths from the facts, in a bid to find out if these claims hold any water.

How Vitamin Is Produced

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays several critical roles in keeping our bodies healthy. Apart from building strong bones, vitamin D is essential for enhancing our immune system, no wonder many people are wondering whether it can help beat coronavirus.

As you may be well aware, direct sunlight on our skin is the main source of vitamin D. All we need to do is to expose our body to sunshine for at least 15 minutes every day. We rely on sunlight to convert the cholesterol in our skin into vitamin D, which helps in the formation of strong bones.
But due to the nature of our work, we may find ourselves spending most of our days enclosed in buildings, away from natural sunlight. This not only affects the circadian rhythm that makes us alert during the day and sleepy during the night, but also our moods.

In places like Africa where the sun is throughout most of the year, getting sufficient amounts of vitamin D directly from the sun is no issue. Unfortunately, in countries like Ireland, sunshine can only be available between late March and late September. Could this explain why some regions reported high numbers of coronavirus infections than others?

Vitamin D and the Immune System

As noted earlier, Vitamin D is required by your immune system to function properly. It has both immunoregulatory and anti-inflammatory properties and plays a crucial role in activating our immune system defenses. Vitamin D has been shown to enhance the function of the immune cells, including macrophages and T cells, which protect our bodies against pathogens. This vitamin is extremely important in our bodies that low levels can lead to increased chances of infections.

According to scientists, almost all immune cells have vitamin D receptors, which shows that vitamin D interacts with our immune systems. The active vitamin D hormone, calcitriol, is responsible for regulating both the innate and adaptive immune systems, which are our first and second lines of defense against pathogens. Vitamin D deficiency causes immune dysregulation, a breakdown or change in the control of immune system processes. People at risk of vitamin D deficiency are those who are confined to their homes. Obese and physically inactive people are also at risk. Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to increased risk of respiratory diseases like asthma, tuberculosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Does Vitamin D Play a Role in Protection Against Covid-19?

Several studies have been published to show the correlation between vitamin D levels in the body and the prevention of covid-19. One study (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2770157) published in the Journal of American Medical Association compared the health of 489 patients who received a Covid-19 test and also had their vitamin D levels take the previous year. Out of the 489 participants, 19 percent of the individuals with vitamin D deficiency tested positive for COVID compared to 12 percent who had enough levels of vitamin D.

Another study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine discovered that people living in areas with less sunshine, and hence reduced vitamin D absorption, were more at risk of death from Covid-19. A recent study analyzed hospital data of 253 patients infected with Covid-19. Patients with a blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D of at least 30 ng/mL seemed less likely to suffer the adverse effects of the virus, including death. Additionally, another recent research was carried out to review the effects of vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections (ARI). The study of 11,321 participants from 14 countries demonstrated that supplementing with vitamin D lowered the risk of acute respiratory infections in individuals who had either low or adequate levels of vitamin D.

The study further discovered that regularly taking small doses of vitamin D supplements was more effective than taking large widely spaced doses. There is also a different study demonstrating that vitamin D supplementation can increase mortality in adults. Other studies are still ongoing to determine the effects of vitamin D in the prevention of Covid-19. For this reason, it’s highly advisable to have your vitamin D levels checked to determine whether or not you have the recommended levels of between 30 – 60 ng/mL.

You Need a Healthy Diet to Stay Healthy

Despite the findings in these studies, the human immune system is more complex, and we can’t solely rely on vitamin D alone. We need to maintain a balanced diet and eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin C, among other essential vitamins and minerals. While these studies demonstrate that taking vitamin D supplementation can help reduce the risks of developing Covid-19, we still need more proof. Meanwhile, you can supplement with 1,000 to 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily, depending on your blood levels. But be sure to consult with your doctor first before you start vitamin D supplementation.

All images by Shutterstock

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