Being in the midst of a global pandemic has put disease prevention and treatment in focus for many of us. New theories about how to protect ourselves from COVID-19 seem to emerge every week. One popular topic right now is Vitamin D.
Why Vitamin D?
One of the roles of Vitamin D in our body is related to immune function. Low levels of Vitamin D have been tied to increased risk of respiratory infections and pneumonia. Some emerging research suggests that there might be a connection between Vitamin D status and COVID-19, both in determining who will be effected and how severe the illness will be.
Sources of Vitamin D
The best sources of Vitamin D include fatty fish such as salmon, trout or sardines and foods fortified with Vitamin D such as milk and cereals. Mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light also provide Vitamin D. Smaller amounts can be found in eggs and cheese. Exposure to sunlight can also help us meet our needs by helping our bodies synthesize Vitamin D. This benefit has to be balanced with the risks of too much sunlight, which can be damaging. For some people, supplements might be needed.
While it seems like we have been dealing with this virus for a long time, it is still very new and there are many unknowns. Research on treatments or prevention strategies often takes months or even years before we have enough information to make recommendations. According to the National Institutes of Health COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines, “there are insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of vitamin D for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.” With that said, Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem that is known to cause other health issues. Ensuring that you have sufficient Vitamin D levels is a good strategy for overall health, but there can also be risks to getting too much. Before you reach for a supplement, look at how much time you spend in the sun and how many foods with vitamin D you choose. If you think you may not be getting enough vitamin D, talk to your health care provider.
- Ali N. Role of vitamin D in preventing of COVID-19 infection, progression and severity [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jun 20]. J Infect Public Health. 2020;S1876-0341(20)30531-1. doi:10.1016/j.jiph.2020.06.021
- Ebadi M, Montano-Loza AJ. Perspective: improving vitamin D status in the management of COVID-19. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2020;74(6):856-859. doi:10.1038/s41430-020-0661-0
- COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Treatment Guidelines. National Institutes of Health. Available at https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/. Accessed 7/24/2020.