Using or recommending supplements as a form of medical treatment has a long and controversial history. Under the 1994 Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (DSHEA), supplements cannot claim to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”
That being said, for generations, it has been common knowledge that our bodies need specific vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to stay healthy. Eating well, taking care of our bodies, and getting enough time outdoors can all help us to get the elements our bodies need. However, in our modern world, being deficient in vital nutrients has become more and more common.
Vitamin D deficiency, in particular, is a very common issue.
Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution however, as a society, we have transitioned more and more into lifestyles that keep us indoors.
We know vitamin D plays a role in keeping us healthy – especially when it comes to acute respiratory infections. In fact, studies on vitamin D supplements can be traced back to the 1930s when cod liver oil – a natural vitamin D source – was investigated as a treatment to reduce “industrial absenteeism” caused by the common cold.
Almost a hundred years later, we find ourselves facing a much greater enemy than the common cold. Covid-19 has become a global pandemic, infecting millions worldwide. With coronavirus social distancing guidelines, we are also finding ourselves spending even more time indoors.
Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more of a problem at a time when it has the potential to cause even worse health outcomes.
Multiple studies over the last few months have shown unusually strong links between patients with vitamin D deficiency and worse Covid-19 outcomes. This has resulted in governments around the world already taking action by making official recommendations on vitamin D supplement levels.
What Covid-19 and Vitamin D Studies Show
While there are already lots of studies showing the link between vitamin D and general health, the last 6 months have seen a number of important studies published related to coronavirus in particular.
A study in Indonesia has found that of the patients reviewed, 99% who died of Covid-19 had very low levels of vitamin D – specifically under 20 ng/ml. Of those patients with vitamin D levels higher than 30 ng/ml, only 4% ended up dying due to Covid-19.
Studies in Korea, Chicago, and Israel have also shown potentially higher rates of infection for Covid-19 in patients who were vitamin D deficient.
The Korea study found that 76% of Covid-19 patients were somewhat deficient in vitamin D and 24% of coronavirus patients had “severe vitamin D deficiency (<10 ng/dl).”
In May, a Chicago study found patients were 77% more likely to test positive for coronavirus if they had vitamin D levels below 20 ng/ml or if they did not take vitamin D supplements regularly.
The Israel study found similar results with patients deficient in vitamin D being 45% more likely to test positive for Covid-19. Even worse, vitamin D deficient patients were also shown to be 95% more likely to end up hospitalized due to Covid-19.
The Science Behind a Vitamin D and Covid Link
While there has been shown to be some link between Vitamin D deficiency and Covid-19 infection and mortality rates, in science it is important to note that correlation does not imply causation. New studies and research teams are trying to define this link between vitamin D and coronavirus in more detail, in order to understand what exactly is happening in the body.
The strongest link so far between vitamin D and infections like Covid-19 is related to the body’s inflammatory response. According to the newest studies, vitamin D can “reduce concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines that produce the inflammation that injures the lining of the lungs, leading to pneumonia, as well as increasing concentrations of anti-inflammatory cytokines.”
What this means is that efficient levels of vitamin D can help down-regulate the inflammatory response in the body, specifically the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). In addition, vitamin D might also help prevent “bradykinin storms.” This condition is also triggered by inflammation, specifically in the vasopressor system, and is likely the cause of Covid-19’s most deadly effects.
What is the Recommended Level of Vitamin D?
With all the research on vitamin D deficiency and coronavirus continuing to add up, making sure you are getting the right amount of vitamin D is a smart move.
Vitamin D supplements are very safe and the majority of people can take them without any issues or side effects. Taking too much can be dangerous in some cases though so it is always a good idea to follow dosing guidelines.
Government standards usually recommend 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day if you are spending most of your day indoors. This is the guideline recommended by the Scottish, Welsh, and British public health agencies.
If you’d like to take more as a precaution or if you think you are deficient, guidelines for max dosage are as follows:
Infants under a year old – No more than 25 micrograms/day
Children 1-10 years of age – No more than 50 micrograms/day
Older children and adults – No more than 100 micrograms/day
Again, these are max dosage guidelines. The recommended dosage is just 10 micrograms. While it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, this dosage is easily achieved with a vitamin D supplement.
At Eric’s Food, we have a number of Vitamin D supplements available and our staff is happy to help you find the right option for you.