Can vitamin D help you fight the mighty coronavirus or any other virus? When we made our vision boards, goals and dreams in the beginning of the year we couldn’t have possibly imagined that a microscopic enemy, easily destroyed by soap, will crush them. One nutrient that is being researched as a possible way to help us protect against the virus is vitamin D.
Vitamin D helps us fight infections, especially respiratory infections. The reason why vitamin D is being mentioned together with coronavirus is that about 50% of people in America lack sufficient vitamin D, especially black and Latino populations. Those populations are the most affected by this virus at this time.
Can vitamin D help against viral infections?
Vitamin D has a very important role in our immune system. It helps to reduce inflammation and control immunological response. There are studies that indicate that vitamin D supplements can increase our immune response and protect against respiratory infections, both viral and bacterial.
Some studies show that low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased susceptibility to infections and other illnesses. There is a correlation between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of respiratory problems, such as respiratory infections, tuberculosis, asthma, and others. I would like to note that although there is evidence, some scientists are still debating these findings.
For those reasons many scientists believe that vitamin D may help us against coronavirus (covid-19, or SARS-CoV-2) and other viruses. However the coronavirus (Covid-19) is the new kid on the block and there are no conclusive studies at this time.
Personally I take vitamin D supplements because I don’t get enough from the sun or from food and vitamin D is a very important nutrient and it has a fundamental role in bone formation. Vitamin D is considered a hormone; we will cover some of its most important functions below.
How to get vitamin D?
We can get vitamin D from the sun or through food, and of course, there are also supplements.
A lot of our Vitamin D is synthesized from sunlight. The darker the skin color, the less vitamin D is absorbed by the skin, and therefore, the longer exposure time the person needs. Independent of skin color, those of us in higher latitudes need even longer exposure times to get the right amount of vitamin D and most people don’t get it. Vitamin D is obtained from direct sunlight, the sunrays that help us to get vitamin D do not pass through glass — in other words, we cannot make it by exposing ourselves to sunlight filtered through a window and must go outside directly in the sun. Remember that sun exposure is not sunburn, sunburn causes skin cancer and dark spots, moderate sun exposure is healthy.
We can also ingest vitamin D. Vitamin D is abundant in cold water fish such as sardines and salmon, and in egg yolks. It is not very common in non-animal sources but it can be found in mushrooms. In addition to that in America we get some vitamin D from fortified foods such as milk, orange juice and cereals. However, that may not be sufficient and we may need a supplement.
There are also vitamin D supplements. The most common are D2 and D3, the first is from vegetable sources and the other from animal sources. When it comes to amounts in normal times, the recommended doses is 400 to 800 IU. For coronavirus there are no recommendations, however the normal amounts are a good place to start. If your doctor determines that you have a deficiency he may recommend higher amounts.
Vitamin D is fat soluble, and for that reason, we should not overdo it. What the body doesn’t use gets stored in the fat cells. Excess vitamin D can cause many health complications, but if you take the recommended amounts it is safe.
Other benefits of vitamin D
Besides protecting us against viruses, potentially against coronavirus, vitamin D has many important roles. Some of those are:
- Vitamin D is well known for its role in bone and teeth formation. Without vitamin D we cannot have healthy bones. This is especially important after menopause.
- Many studies demonstrate that vitamin D supports brain and nervous system function.
- Low levels of vitamin D are linked to depression
- According to studies vitamin D may help in regulating the insulin levels, and therefore, help manage diabetes. There are some studies indicating that low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of type 1 diabetes.
- It helps to improve cardiovascular health. Some studies suggest that it may help control high blood pressure.
- Vitamin D may have an epigenetic effect. It may have a role in the genes involved in cancer development. Some small studies link low vitamin D levels to development of breast, ovaries, esophagus, colon, prostate, and other cancers.
- And something important to know: vitamin D may promote weight loss. Or in other words, lack of vitamin D may promote weight gain.
So, there are a lot of reasons to make sure we are having the right levels of vitamin D. Let’s hope that vitamin D can help us against coronavirus or covid-19.
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