As a healthcare professional, I've been scratching my head about what exactly we can do to beat coronavirus.
For now, answer may lie in a simple vitamin: vitamin D.
Low vitamin D levels may put people at risk of developing COVID-19, according to a new study by Leumit HealthCare Services and Azrieli College of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University.
What researchers found. The main finding of our study was that low plasma vitamin D levels are significantly associated with likelihood of contracting COVID-19.
1. How does vitamin D help fight COVID-19?
Studies support some scientists' view that people with vitamin D deficiency have a weak or abnormal immune response, making them more likely to develop severe symptoms of COVID-19.
2. What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin because our body cannot exist without it. Vitamin D exists in two forms: D2 and D3
Vitamin D 2 This diet consists of oily fish, egg yolks, red meat, liver, certain fats and fortified grains. Dietary intake of vitamin D2 is critical because we cannot synthesize this substance in our bodies. Many people simply don't like to eat these foods and don't get enough vitamin D2.
Vitamin D 3 is produced in skin in response to sunlight - UV radiation. However, many of us also fail in this area. Especially in winter days are short and dark. In addition, use of sunscreen with SPF 30 (protection against skin cancer) reduces skin absorption of UV-B by 95%.
3. How common is vitamin D deficiency?
50% of the world's people are deficient in vitamin D. It affects 1 billion people worldwide. How can it be? Here are some reasons why:
Society/Culture. Fewer people spend long hours outdoors these days. In addition, people's eating habits have also changed.
Skin tone. The increased melanin content in darker skin absorbs more UVB. Dark-skinned people require more UV exposure than fair-skinned people to achieve adequate vitamin D levels.
Elderly: 60% of people in nursing homes and 57% of people in hospitals are vitamin D deficient. They may rarely go outside, tend to wear long sleeves that cover more, and they have poor appetite or poor nutrition.
Infants, children, pregnant and lactating women. All of them have an increased need for vitamin D, and intake may not meet requirements.
4. What does vitamin D do?
Vitamin D performs two important functions:
1. Calcium and phosphorus metabolism
Vitamin D increases level of calcium and phosphorus in blood. It also regulates activity of osteoblasts (bone building) and osteoclasts (bone removal). For prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. However, large doses of vitamin D are not recommended. It should be used within recommended dosage range.
2. Supports body's defense mechanisms against infection
Vitamin D has a complex effect on body's defense mechanisms. It plays a role in maintaining barrier function of skin and other epithelial surfaces. It is also involved in innate immunity, your body's ability to recognize and destroy invading organisms. Vitamin D plays a role in adaptive immunity, way your body produces an antibody response.
5. Why is vitamin D deficiency important?
As there is growing evidence that low vitamin D levels can pose a health risk, it is important to emphasize that these are observational studies—studies that report data collected in a specific population/situation—and only because they are not proves a causal relationship. More research is needed. However, association between low vitamin D levels and many different diseases remains relevant and of great public health interest.
6. If you don't get enough vitamin D, what are health problems?
Vitamin D deficiency has been reported:
The risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers is 30-50% higher.
Increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D stimulates production of nitric oxide, which protects against oxidative stress. There appears to be a link between low vitamin D levels and high blood pressure. Vitamin D may have an anticoagulant effect. It may also have effect of reversing atherosclerosis.
Increased risk of developing diabetes. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with insulin resistance and pancreatic cell function.
Affects functioning of brain. Vitamin D is a neurotransmitter that also has a protective effect on brain tissue. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a higher risk of depression, Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy.
It's worth noting that other studies have reported reduced mortality in people who took vitamin D supplements.
7. How can I increase my vitamin D levels?
- Eat foods rich in vitamin D, such as oily fish (tuna, salmon); foods rich in vitamin D, such as some dairy products and cereals cheese; eggs (yolks); dried beef and any other types.
- Expose your skin to sun without wearing sunscreen. 15-20 minutes a day for people with fair skin. 20 to 40 minutes a day for people with dark skin.
- Consider taking vitamin D supplements.