For those of us living in colder, cloudier climes, taking a vitamin D supplement has always been important, especially during the winter months when sunshine is limited. But with COVID-19 lockdowns now impacting the time many of us might normally spend outside, Public Health England is re-issuing its advice on taking vitamin D supplements.
PHE is recommending that during lockdown everyone (including children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and older people) with limited exposure to sunshine should consider taking a daily supplement of 10-micrograms of the vitamin every day to protect bone, teeth and muscle health.
However, those of you following the news will already know there could soon be even more compelling reasons to consider this sunshine supplement. Could there be a link between vitamin D and coronavirus?
Vitamin D & coronavirus - research now underway
Researchers at Granada University1 have hypothesised a link between the vitamin and the fight against COVID-19. A ten-week trial is now underway to see if high doses of the vitamin might help treat some of the mild symptoms associated with the virus including fatigue, headaches and fever.
Does low vitamin D weaken your immune system?
A deficiency may also be linked to a greater risk of infection in the body, particularly the respiratory tract and illnesses such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and bronchiolitis2.
Researchers at the Technological University Dublin and Trinity College Dublin admit this link is not enough to build a solid bridge between vitamin D and COVID-19. However, given the deficiency is “common and may contribute to increased risk of respiratory infection”, they therefore recommend that “older adults, hospital inpatients, nursing home residents and other vulnerable groups… be urgently supplemented with … vitamin D to enhance their resistance to COVID-19”3.
However, as time continues and further global data becomes available, there appear to be increasingly favourable links between the two. For instance, it is becoming apparent that populations in the southern hemisphere, such as Australia, are experiencing lower mortality rates than those in the northern hemisphere (with exception to Scandinavian countries, which irrespective of coronavirus maintain good levels of vitamin D supplements). It's not so much a case of the vitamin protecting against coronavirus per se, but that it could help prevent the respiratory illness ultimately causing deaths.
What is vitamin D?
There are two types available:
- Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) – this is created by plants and is not produced by the human body.
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) – we can generate this three different ways, which we detail below.
What does vitamin D do?
It helps to regulate the amount of phosphate and calcium in our bodies, which is important in maintaining the health of our bones, muscles and teeth.
How to get vitamin D?
There are three ways:
1/ Through a supplement
2/ Through our bodies - we can create it naturally through the direct contact of sun onto our skin. If you spend most of your day inside, or if you cover yourself when you go outside, then your body is unlikely to be generating adequate amounts of this vitamin.
3/ Through a small number of foods that contain the vitamin, including oily fish like mackerel, salmon, herring and sardines, as well as egg yolks, liver, red meat and foods that have been fortified (some cereals and spreads - refer to their nutritional information on packaging).
We will be sure to keep you posted on the vitamin D and coronavirus Granada University trial!
Corinna and the Edible Health Team.
The information we have provided herewith, and all linked materials, are not intended nor should they be construed as medical advice. Moreover, the information herewith should not be used as a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Please refer to our Terms and Conditions and consult your General Practitioner for advice specific for you.