Vitamin D and COVID-19
*Eliza in our favourite lunch time spot
Not sure if you have heard, but we have a bit of a COVID-19 situation going on at the moment.
Throughout 2020, we have been bombarded with information about Covid-19, various ways to approach treatment, prevention, and a range of home remedies. While some have been fueled by fact, others have been fueled by fear.
As we all know, news headlines don’t always have the greatest validity, but recently, a headline grabbed our attention; “Coronavirus: Should I start taking vitamin D?”.
We know vitamin D is essential, but could combatting Covid-19 be so simple?
We thought we would look into it for you.
Vitamin D refresher
Vitamin D has a pivotal role in the body, including supporting the health of your:
In Australia, blood serum levels of equal or higher than 50nmol/L are considered adequate.
The majority of vitamin D is obtained from direct sunlight (90%), and only a small portion from dietary sources (10%), including dairy products, eggs and fish.
Vitamin D and COVID-10 relationship
When there is a worldwide pandemic, particularly involving an unfamiliar virus, the heads of health organisations, look for patterns to decipher the best ways to treat and prevent spread.
Through epidemiology studies, it was found that the rate of COVID-19 was higher in locations, and during seasons, where vitamin D levels in the general population, were at their lowest.
In Australia, Covid-19 cases spiked during winter, which is when our Vitamin D levels are our lowest, and have decreased as we approach our warmer weather, which is traditionally when our Vitamin D levels are higher. Similar patterns have been found worldwide.
since Jan, it has also been well documented that COVID-19 mortality rates (death rates) have increased with latitude, in areas that are associated with lower UV levels, and therefore lower levels of Vitamin D within the population.
So what does Vitamin D have to do with COVID-19?
Currently, there is a lot of research being conducted on whether vitamin D can help reduce (and potentially even prevent) the severity of COVID-19.
Vitamin D’s important role in our body’s immune response, particularly with respiratory tract infections, has been well researched.
On a cellular level, vitamin D is proposed to have the following effects on the immune system:
Enhance innate immunity (first line immune defense)
Help lower viral replication rates
Reduces concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines (cells responsible for inflammation)
Increases concentrations of anti-inflammatory cytokines (cells responsible for decreasing inflammation)
Modulates the proliferation, inhibition and differentiation of our important T and B immune cells (immune fighting cells)
So theoretically, if you were deficient in Vit D, the above process’ may not function as efficiently, increasing your vulnerability to Covid-19. Hence, there may be some benefit in taking Vit D, especially for those who are vitamin D deficient.
What does this mean for Australia?
You will be surprised to learn that in Australia, it is estimated that 23% of people are vitamin D-deficient. It may not be as surprising to learn that, in Melbourne, it is estimated that, in an average year, a staggering 50% of people have low Vitamin D levels in winter.
During the recent heavy restrictions, our Vitamin D levels have been further put at risk, as Australians have been spending more times indoors. The increase in people working from home, has had a massive influence on our normal regime, as we are no longer getting up from the desk to go talk to colleagues, walking down the street to grab a coffee, or spending our lunch break outside in the sun.
For those in Victoria, time available to spend outdoors is even less than in the rest of the country, as curfew restricts the amount of time allowed outside (even to exercise) and essential travel limited to a 5km radius (from home).
These changes are detrimental to our Vit D stores, as the biggest source of Vitamin D is obtained from UV rays (from the sun).
How to get my daily dose of vitamin D
Obtaining vitamin D is simple, here is a little reminder on how to do so safely in Australia:
For someone with fair skin, spending 5-10 minutes in the sun between 10am-1pm in Summer and 30-60minutes during the middle of the day in Winter is an adequate amount of time to obtain Vitamin D.
For people with dark skin, it can take 3-6x longer in the sun to obtain an adequate amount of vitamin D.
As well as sun exposure, a small portion of Vitamin D can be obtained from our diet in foods, such as fish and eggs.
For those who are low in Vitamin D, your health professional may recommend Vitamin D supplements. Please always consult your health care profession prior to introducing a supplement or medication to your diet.
So should I be taking Vitamin D supplements to prevent COVID-19?
There are a lot of controlled trials currently underway to look at the relationship between Vitamin D and COVID-19.
At this stage, it is too early to start recommending for all Australians to take Vitamin D supplementation to prevent or treat COVID-19, however, Vitamin D is still very important for our overall health (particularly bone health and immunity), and as highlighted above, as a population, we have are prone to deficiency and have had limited time outside during the current restrictions.
For this reason, whether you believe vitamin D is beneficial for COVID-19, or not, it is time to start prioritizing our health and ensuring that we are getting our daily fix of Vitamin D for optimal bodily functioning.
If you are concerned about your levels of Vitamin D, it is important that you have a discussion with your general practitioner.
Retrain Health is based in the Northern Rivers, NSW. From our Byron Bay and Ballina clinics, our team provides a range of quality healthcare services and products. Retrain Health offers osteopathy, remedial massage and strength and conditioning, and PT sessions with qualified practitioners. If you are interested in finding out more information or would like to book an appointment, please contact the clinic by phone (02) 6680 7447, send us an email or click here to book an appointment online.