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Association between low Vitamin D and COVID-19

New report suggests strategies to prevent Vitamin D deficiency during COVID-19.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin naturally produced in the skin from direct exposure to sunlight. It can also be obtained in smaller amounts from food, or from supplements. Vitamin D is considered vital for maintaining the health of bones and muscles and for the normal functioning of the immune system. Several studies indicate an association between low levels of vitamin D and rickets in children and weak musculoskeletal health in adults.

For most people, sunlight is the main source of vitamin D. Thus, many people, particularly those residing in the Northern latitudes, have reduced levels of vitamin D in their blood during winter or if confined indoors. Several studies highlight the association between low vitamin D and COVID-19, which may be exacerbated due to self-isolating indoors with limited exposure to sunlight.

A new report, published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, investigated the association between vitamin D and COVID-19. In the report, the researchers have proposed a number of lifestyle strategies to prevent vitamin D deficiency as well as maintaining a healthy and balanced diet during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report suggests adherence to government guidelines for the daily intake of vitamin D, established for the general population. The recommended daily amounts of vitamin D intake, as set up by the various government bodies, are 400 IU (10 µg) per day in the UK and 600 IU (15 µg) per day (800 IU (20 µg) per day for persons over age 70 years) in the US.

The researchers recommend maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet that includes foods containing vitamin D, which is essential for those self-isolating indoors with decreased exposure to sunlight as well as for the protection of the body’s immune system. They also suggest increasing vitamin D levels in the blood through sunlight exposure for a short time without either leaving the home or by maintaining social distancing.

The report found no firm scientific evidence that increased vitamin D intakes will prevent or treat COVID-19.  According to the researchers, further research may be needed to investigate the effects of vitamin D intake on COVID-19. There is current evidence suggesting that very high doses of vitamin D (greater than 4000 IU (100 µg) per day) poses health risks such as decreased kidney function. Thus, the researchers recommend avoiding taking vitamin D at doses higher than the limit, established by the various government organizations, unless advised by a qualified medical professional.

Written by Ranjani Sabarinathan, MSc                                                                                      

Reference: Lanham-New SA, Webb AR, Cashman KD, et al. Vitamin D and SARS-CoV-2 virus/COVID-19 disease. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health 2020; 0. Doi: 10.1136/ bmjnph-2020-000089

Image by silviarita from Pixabay 

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