Vitamin D reduces COVID-19 severity?
Scientists have been scrambling for months to figure out more about COVID-19, such as why it makes some people severely ill and others not even sniffle.
Is there something we can do to predict the severity of COVID-19? Could it be as simple as getting a little more sunshine?
It turns out, vitamin D (a fat-soluble vitamin created by the body through exposure to sunshine) is associated with lower mortality rates and less severe infections of COVID-19.
That explains a lot
This link actually explains a number of observations: ethnicities with darker skin have suffered more deaths from COVID, people who have a higher percentage of body fat suffer from more severe symptoms, and those who are largely spared aren't randomly selected.
To explain further, it's harder for people with naturally dark skin to synthesize vitamin D from sun exposure. Their melanin, which creates their dark skin, is protecting them (too well) from the sun rays. However, they can still benefit from vitamin D's protection by ingesting the vitamin. Anyone can take a supplement or eat foods rich in vitamin D: salmon, sardines, and herring.
People with high body mass index (BMI) have also suffered disproportionately from COVID-19. This is in part due to the fat-soluble trait of vitamin D. In obese people who have a great amount of fat tissue, the vitamin gets pulled in easily, but can't find it's way back out very well. This means the vitamin D can't get to where it needs to go to protect them from COVID.
Vitamin D is key to keeping the body from overreacting to the viral infection. This is often called inflammation, but when it's extreme, it's called a cytokine storm. Really, it's this cytokine storm that causes the most severe COVID symptoms.
The Goldilocks amount
You might be asking whether you should start taking a vitamin D supplement, and the answer is likely yes. But it's important to note that bigger is not always better.
There is a dose of vitamin D that is just right for your body. Taking too much, particularly of a fat-soluble vitamin, is dangerous. Don't go overboard!
Your doctor can easily test your vitamin D level to let you know if you are currently deficient. If you are deficient, you may need a higher dose of vitamin D for a short period to get you back into the normal range.
A normal dose of vitamin D is about 1,500 IU per day. Since it's fat soluble, it's convenient to take it as a combined fish oil/vitamin D supplement with food. The food will help your body absorb the supplement better.
And the key is consistency: take your supplement every day. Not only will it protect you from developing severe COVID-19, but it will protect your bone health too.
Reference: Petre Cristian Ilie, Simina Stefanescu, Lee Smith. The role of vitamin D in the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 infection and mortality. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 2020; DOI: 10.1007/s40520-020-01570-8