Vitamin D Power

The beautiful, and unfortunately fleeting, weather that we enjoyed last week came and went before we could dust off our summer wardrobes.  But among the excitement of feeling like we’d been teleported to the Med on our daily walks, the important topic of Vitamin D and its health benefits came to the forefront of conversation as we continue to fight against COVID 19.  There’s certainly a buzz about the connection driven by research undertaken by researchers at Trinity College, Dublin who studied the high prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in Northern Hemisphere countries and the possible role of vitamin D in suppressing the severe inflammatory responses seen in very ill COVID19 patients and deaths. (source: Journal of Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics)

Vitamin D has therefore understandably taken centre stage among its peers in the popular press as we search for ways to maintain and protect our health during this pandemic. 

Though, in the recent run of sun, we may have been lucky enough to have had more exposure to the vitamin than normal – usually vitamin D is at its lowest level at this time of year.  In the UK, ultraviolet light levels only allow skin production of vitamin D from sunlight between about April and September, which makes looking at our diet as a source of the vitamin as all the more necessary.

Does Vitamin D make you healthy?

You will certainly know or heard of people who have experienced “light” COVID19 symptoms such as a loss of smell and taste. We know that vitamin D has been shown to improve innate cellular immunity (preventing the spread and movement of foreign pathogens throughout the body), modulate adaptive immunity (destroy invading pathogens) as well as upper respiratory cellular health (that will be the nose, throat, pharynx and larynx) – all of which can only be positives to our overall health, especially at this time. 

There has been a lot of research to suggest that having good vitamin D levels is helpful in the protection against RNA virus infections like the common cold, seasonal flu and dengue fever – so, although we still don’t fully understand the nature of coronavirus, we can hope that the vitamin source equally protects us against the effects of the disease.

Those who become really sick from COVID-19 pneumonia are generally suffering from something called a cytokine storm, which is a disproportionate overreaction of the immune system that causes significant organ damage and can in some cases lead to death. 

The good news is that good vitamin D levels have been associated with a reduction in cytokine storms. Though this is by no means conclusive, even an association like this must surely be a good thing.

What is the correlation between those with low Vitamin D and Coronavirus?

Evidence is emerging that populations of some of the highest risk of low vitamin D are among those most affected by the disease.

In Stockholm 40 % of the reported COVID-19 related deaths occurring involve Somali diaspora communities, yet they represent less than 1% of the population. Data clearly shows dark skinned Somalis are D-deficient, for example, vitamin D deficiency was found in 73% of the Somali women and in 1% of the white population.

On top of this, early data shows African Americans to have contracted and died of Coronavirus at an alarming rate. 

In Chicago, 70% of COVID-19 deaths occurred in the black population, and when one considers that 84% of African American men and women (over 65) are vitamin D deficient then it starts to strengthen the concept of a possible connection between the two.

Can Vitamin D help prevent contracting coronavirus?

It is not true that vitamin D will protect you from the infection itself, and there is no clinical evidence to suggest that taking vitamin D will prevent you from catching the infection. So, this idea that vitamin D levels might provide some protection to Coronavirus requires further research and investigation before we can confidently establish a connection between the two.

However, it is certainly clear that the majority of the population would benefit from vitamin D supplementation regardless of Coronavirus. It is already the only supplement that the UK government recommends for general population consumption. So, now more than ever, is an opportune time to consider introducing effective supplementation of vitamin D which may also have the additional affect of providing some protection from COVID-19 and its complications. 

Who is most at risk of deficiency?

  1. Those with pigmented skin who are less able to make the vitamin in their skin
  2. Those who are obese as this reduces their blood levels of vitamin D
  3. Those with high blood pressure and diabetes 
  4. Those over the age of 50 years, when skin production is also reduced
  5. Those who are sun avoiders because of fair skin or lockdown!

How much Vitamin D should I be taking?

The government recommends a dose of 10µg, however, this will only move blood levels very slowly, if at all. 

Here at CorLife we recommend 25-50µg a day, looking at food as the starting point of where you source your vitamin D – for example fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel are great food sources as is fresh orange juice, cheese and egg yolks – and then boosting with a good quality supplement, we recommend Healthspan

If you’re concerned about your vitamin D levels, you can purchase online kits to self-check at home and inform you of whether you require a higher dose. But do bear in mind that keeping to a dosage of no more than 100µg a day is a safe parameter for adults unless your blood levels are known and supplementation is medically supervised.

And, as an aside, we can all keep hoping that the glorious sunshine we’ve seen over recent weeks returns and helps us out.  Fingers crossed.