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With the rampant spread of COVID-19 across the globe and the death toll rising over two million, many people are trying to find ways to prevent catching the virus. People have also been heavily focused on staying as healthy as possible to fight off the infection in the event that they do happen to contract it.
There have been copious amounts of information circulating providing tips and ideas to help prevent infection or grave consequences of catching COVID-19. Some of the health claims made have been dangerous, while some may be helpful. So, what’s the deal with COVID-19 and vitamin D? Is there a connection between a vitamin D deficiency and coronavirus? Let’s find out.
What is vitamin D and what does it do for the body?
Vitamin D is both a vitamin and a steroid hormone that can be synthesised by the body through sunlight exposure. It can also be absorbed through various vitamin D-rich foods such as fatty fish and some mushrooms. It plays a vital role in many body parts and processes, including bone health, calcium and phosphorus metabolism, and even the regulation of mood. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is absorbed better with fat and can be stored in fatty tissues.
Is vitamin D important for the immune system?
In addition to the aforementioned benefits of vitamin D, research has shown that it can be incredibly important for fighting off infection and boosting immune health. The vitamin is a key player in the initiation of an immune response when a pathogen shows up in the body as well as the regulation of the immune system. Vitamin D can also encourage the immune system by supporting different immune cells.
What are good sources of vitamin D?
People typically get a good bulk of vitamin D from the sun. However, this can sometimes be difficult due to lack of time spent outside or limited sunlight during winter months. During time spent indoors and without adequate access to sunlight, the intake of foods rich in vitamin D should be increased to help prevent a deficiency.
Foods that can contain vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon
- Foods that are fortified with vitamin D such as some juices, dairy products and breakfast cereals
- Egg yolks
- Some mushrooms
The recommended daily intake for vitamin D may vary slightly from person to person, but on average, people should be getting at least 7 µg/day.
The dangers of a vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many health issues because of the vitamin’s importance in several different bodily processes. Studies have shown that not getting enough vitamin D can lead to an increased risk for respiratory diseases, viral diseases, bacterial infections and cognitive impairment.
Deficiency has also been associated with heightened risks of developing certain diseases such as multiple sclerosis, glucose intolerance, diabetes and hypertension. Since vitamin D is involved in calcium and phosphorus homeostasis, it is also important for bone and muscle health, and deficiencies can lead to increased bone weakness and brittleness as well as muscle weakness.
Does vitamin D protect against COVID-19?
When it comes to COVID-19 and vitamin D, different studies have been conducted recently on how Vitamin D intake or deficiency may be a protection from coronavirus or the severity of the illness associated with the virus.
One study, for example, found that patients with severe cases of COVID-19 were more likely to have markedly low levels of vitamin D, leading to a heightened inflammatory response. This deficiency in vitamin D led to the assumption of an increased risk of a severe course or mortality in those with COVID-19.
Some more current research draws the conclusion that vitamin D deficiency in some cases may lead to a worse outcome if someone catches COVID-19, but studies on the benefits of vitamin D supplementation in COVID-19 are still rare or inconsistent. Clinical trials are on the way to get a better picture of the vitamin D and COVID-19 connection, which is still not fully elucidated, especially as much of the published literature is unable to prove a causal link and/or shows various limitations, such as a low sample size or a study population with numerous other potentially confounding risk factors.
It’s important to remember that just because this research seems promising, clear and solid results are still lacking. There is no evidence yet to suggest that vitamin D supplementation can prevent a person from getting COVID-19, and it is in no way a cure for the infection. However, vitamin D is important for our immune health and contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system.
Are there vitamins or supplements that prevent COVID-19?
The answer to this question, to date, is no. Transmission of COVID-19 can only be prevented by following the safety measures in place (social distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands thoroughly and often, etc.). No vitamin or supplement will prevent transmission on its own. However, some supplements can support immune health as a general preventive measure or address deficiencies that may influence the occurrence of infectious diseases.
It’s important to continue to follow safety measures to ensure you’re staying as safe as possible as the virus continues to circulate. Supplementing with the appropriate vitamins and minerals, as well as maintaining a nutritious diet, is crucial to staying as healthy as possible so that your body can fight off infection to the best of its ability.