Vitamin D is one of the essential nutrients for the immunity of the body. With no proper vaccine for COVID-19, there have been some speculations about nutrient supply that may help boost immunity and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Some research studies have shown that people with healthy levels of vitamin D have a sound immune system. Moreover, having good immunity may help protect against the deadly respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Additionally, vitamin D may help to reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus.
The World Health Organization has also reported a study that reveals the effectiveness of vitamin D against the prevention of respiratory tract infections such as that of the novel coronavirus. (1) Today’s article will highlight the importance of vitamin D in building your immunity. Furthermore, we will discuss its effectiveness against COVID-19.
Vitamin D is typically a fat-soluble vitamin that is well known for its critical role in strengthening the bones, teeth, and cartilage in the body. Moreover, vitamin D is an essential nutrient that helps to build the immune system of the body and fight against infections.
Recently, there have been many trials going on to determine the right treatment and preventive aid for the novel coronavirus. According to them, vitamin D may help in protecting an individual from developing the disease. However, there is no clear evidence or verification of the research so far. Nevertheless, vitamin D is essential in our regular life with the balance of other nutrients in the body. Ideally, the daily requirement of vitamin D is said to be 25-100 micrograms per day that amounts to 400-800 IU per day.
Most of the food items do not contain vitamin D naturally. However, Oily fish and mushrooms are said to have high quantities of vitamin D. typically, our skin contains natural vitamin D3, which is produced during exposure to sunlight. However, if you live in areas with limited sunlight, you can get your daily vitamin D requirement from the food rich with this vitamin. Some other sources of vitamin D include –
- Beef liver – 50 IU per 100 gm serving
- Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and mackerel – 250 – 400 IU per 100 gm serving
- Cod liver oil – 450 IU per teaspoon
- Egg yolk – 88 IU per egg
- Milk – 110-130 IU per cup
- Cheese – 30-40 IU per slice
- Vitamin D fortified food products such as soy milk, orange juice, and cereals
How does vitamin D boost your immunity?
Vitamin D helps to build the body’s first line of defense, which is the immune system to fight against infection and diseases. Some of the crucial properties of vitamin D include –
- It has anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties that activate the defense mechanism of the body (2)
- Vitamin D activates peptides in the body that trigger the anti-microbial response in the body that helps to fight viral and bacterial infections.
- It promotes proper functioning of the immune cells such as T-cells and macrophages that help to kill all the pathogens in the body
- Low levels of vitamin D in the body can lead to susceptibility to infection and immune-related disorders. (3) some of the common infections that can occur due to low vitamin D levels include tuberculosis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Low vitamin D levels have also been linked to reduced lung function that ma affects the immunity against respiratory infections. (4)
Can you contract COVID-19 with low levels of vitamin D?
Vitamins are crucial to maintain the body’s immunity and keep the individual healthy. However, deficient levels of vitamin D can lead to increased risk of infection, especially during the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
About half of the American population is currently deficient in vitamin D because they live in limited sunlight. Moreover, now that the country is on lockdown, there is even less chance of getting vitamin D from the sun.
A recent study reported that people who take daily vitamin D supplements were at a reduced risk of developing a respiratory tract infection such as a common cold. This, in turn, minimizes the risk of developing symptoms of COVID-19, which are similar to cold and flu. Therefore, there is a possibility that a deficiency of vitamin D may weaken the innate immune system and make the individual susceptible to infection. (5)
However, it is not definite that vitamin D can cure the disease. This requires extensive research and randomized controlled clinical trial to test the effectiveness of vitamin D against COVID-19.
Can vitamin D protect you from COVID-19?
There is no evidence-based study that can confirm the effects of vitamin D in protecting against the novel coronavirus. Moreover, no study links the deficiency of vitamin D and increased risk of coronavirus spread.
However, various clinical studies show an increased risk of developing respiratory illness due to deficiency of vitamin D. (6) Additionally, some research experts also indicate that vitamin D promotes immune response and protects the person against respiratory infection.
A recent study was performed across 14 countries around the world, which demonstrated that providing vitamin D supplements significantly decreased the risk of respiratory infection in patients with adequate levels as well as in those who had low levels of vitamin D.
Moreover, the study showed that overall, vitamin D supplements significantly reduced the risk of developing at least one acute respiratory illness. Additionally, the protective effect was more significant in patients with low levels of vitamin D. (7)
Vitamin D has also been suggested to reduce the mortality rate in older adults who are at risk of developing a respiratory illness like COVID-19. However, there is no scientific evidence that confirms that vitamin D can protect people from developing the novel coronavirus.
Currently, there is no specific medical treatment or a vaccine to prevent the symptoms of the novel coronavirus. Therefore, it is always safe to boost your immunity with nutritional supplements and stay healthy. You can also have your healthcare provider test your vitamin D levels to determine whether you have adequate or deficient levels of vitamin D. (8)
Low levels of vitamin D can increase the risk of developing weak bones and muscles. Usually, the individual may experience mild symptoms of bone ache and muscle pain. However, failure to replenish the vitamin D levels in the body can have severe health consequences which may include –
- Frequent aches and pain in the bone and muscle causing tiredness throughout the day
- Severe bone and muscle weakness leading to difficulty in climbing stairs and walking
- Waddling gait
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Stress fractures in the legs, hips, and pelvis
- Increased risk of developing infections and diseases
Usually, vitamin D deficiency can be detected through a blood test. In severe cases, doctors can also take x-rays to determine the strength of the bones.
Take away message
Vitamin D is one of the essential nutrients in our body. It primarily functions in building the immune system of the individual. Many scientific types of research have suggested that promoting vitamin D supplements in the diet may protect against developing respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19.
Moreover, many studies have proven the effectiveness of vitamin D supplements in significantly reducing the risk of developing the acute respiratory disorder in patients with adequate as well as low levels of vitamin D. Additionally, low levels of vitamin D may have a negative impact on the individual’s immune system increasing the risk of getting an infection.
Currently, there is no preventive medicine or cure to treat the symptoms of the novel coronavirus. Therefore, it is essential to stay healthy and boost your immunity against respiratory illnesses that may also include COVID-19. You can contact your healthcare provider for more information on ways to enhance vitamin D supply in your regular diet.