Vitamin D – Covid 19
vitamin d covid 19 covid-19 coronavirus

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made us take stock of the current state of our health: BMI scores, food eaten, cigarettes smoked, whether we are drinking too much alcohol. Doctors and scientists alike are flailing about trying to ascertain the risk factors involved in dying from the disease. One of the risk factors that has been shown to be involved in both contracting and dying of the disease is vitamin D deficiency: a recent study has shown that the relative risk of testing positive for COVID-19 is 1.77 times greater when you have a likely vitamin D deficiency.

Other studies concur with the link between severity of symptoms in respiratory diseases like the coronavirus – symptoms so severe you would likely be hospitalised – and not having enough vitamin D.

Some Potential Explanations…

For a long time, vitamin D has been associated with the inflammatory responses of the body when fighting off respiratory infections. This means that the immunopathological response of your body – the things like fever and tiredness that attend most viral infections – are less severe, meaning that you are less likely to have symptoms that require hospital support.

There are other reasons as to why vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased severity of the coronavirus, too. The vitamin is involved in autophagy: the process by which your body gets rid of dysfunctional or unnecessary components of cells. A autophagy is needed to keep your immune system working at highest capacity, giving it the best chance to fight off infections. Vitamin D is also involved in the production of anti-microbial peptides: molecules produced by your body (as they are by all forms of life) as part of its innate immune response. Therefore, having a lack of vitamin D – especially if this lack has been going on for several years – will mean that these processes and molecules are not as strong or as common as they could be, thus making it harder for the body to overcome the virus it has been infected with, increasing its morbidity.

Vitamin D also has a positive effect against contracting the coronavirus as well. Metabolised version of the vitamin have been shown to have an inhibitory effect against viruses when present in human nasal epithelial cells. Simply put, this means that if you are getting enough vitamin D, there’s a greater chance that your body will be able to fight off the virus that has just been inhaled, before it even reaches the lungs that it will otherwise go onto attack. This mechanism might account for the lower rates of the coronavirus in those who are not vitamin D deficient.

So vitamin D has been shown by both correlation and mechanistic causation to be an important factor in keeping symptoms of respiratory diseases including COVID-19 as mild as they can be, and making potentially preventing you from contracting it in the first place.

Some Uneasy Solutions…

Sunlight

It’s well known that the human body gets vitamin D from sunlight: direct UV rays break down cholesterol in skin cells to produce this vital macronutrient. However, it’s often not enough. Not only do most people not spend long enough with their skin exposed to sunlight for vitamin D to be produced, but at the moment, we’re currently staring down the barrel of a COVID-19 winter: the lost intensity and hours of sunlight mean that less vitamin D is able to be made. Via sunlight, vitamin D is also not produced as much in those with darker skin.

Find out everything about sunbathing and vitamin D.

Food

Good natural sources of vitamin D in our diet include oily fish (like salmon and sardines), egg yolks and red meat. Lots of cereals that you can get in the supermarket, like rice pops and cornflakes, are fortified with lots of minerals and vitamins, usually including a fair amount of vitamin D. However, you’d have to eat a lot of these foods for an extended period of time for your vitamin D levels to be really boosted: this can not only be financially challenging to do, but on a practical level, just quite a difficult feat to pull off.

So, there are definitely environmental changes you can bring about to help protect yourself against both contracting and suffering badly from the coronavirus: getting out into the sun with plenty of bare skin showing, or doubling down on some steak and eggs. However, these remedies are not usually enough: not only is access to sunlight highly contingent on your lifestyle and job and seasonal changes to the sunlight, but it is quite difficult to consistently eat enough of the foods that are high in vitamin D for your diet to be substantially meaningful, in medical terms.

Find out everything there is to know about vitamin D and food.

Vitamin D And Covid 19 – The Upshot

There’s compelling evidence to suggest that vitamin D deficiency can increase the severity of COVID-19 symptoms, and also increase the chance that you contract the disease in the first place. But given the paucity of vitamin D in many people’s lifestyles, and the attendant problems associated with getting enough vitamin D into your body, the deficient might be pretty endemic within society. It might then, be worth investing in a vitamin D supplement instead. It’s good for other aspects of your health, allowing calcium to be absorbed into the body to strengthen and maintain bone and teeth health, so your intake of this vitamin is important anyway. But especially in light of such a bleak and potentially long-lasting disease, it’s really important to try and up your vitamin D intake, both to prevent ending up with a serious case of coronavirus, and perhaps to prevent you contracting it at all.

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SOURCES CITED:

  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2770157
  2. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(20)30268-0/fulltext

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