Around the world, researchers are striving to better understand COVID-19 as they work toward developing a vaccine. Along the way, some intriguing possibilities have emerged. One of them involves Vitamin D.
While research into the issue is not conclusive, some scientists have theorized that people with a vitamin D deficiency and weak immune systems are more likely to develop COVID-19 and also experience the worst symptoms.
That’s important news for people who are searching for something to help them battle the virus, especially older people in age groups where the virus has made the worst impact. But before rushing out to buy Vitamin D supplements, it’s good to know the facts about Vitamin D and where research stands.
Vitamin D Boosts The Immune System
Scientists have long known vitamin D can help reduce inflammation and stimulate the release of antimicrobial proteins that kill viruses and bacteria, according to the New York Times. This has led Harvard University and other schools to launch randomized trials into determining if a link exists between Vitamin D and COVID-19.
However, suggestions of a connection have piled up quickly in observational studies. For example, a study from Northwestern University that has not yet been peer reviewed suggested Vitamin D can suppress cytokine storms, a type of immune reaction that appears to worsen outcomes for coronavirus patients.
Another study from researchers at the University of East Anglia in England suggests a connection between vitamin D and COVID-19 based on data from cases and deaths in Europe. The report found that the mean level of vitamin D in each country “was strongly associated” with the number of cases. They noted that vitamin D levels are especially low in the aging population in Spain, Italy and Switzerland.
And at the University of Chicago Medicine, a review of data from 4,300 patients in March and April 2020 found that those who had a vitamin D deficiency before the pandemic were 77% more likely to catch the disease.
Getting More Vitamin D Into Your Life
Even before COVID-19, scientists and healthcare professionals had voiced concern about a vitamin D deficiency. One study estimated about one billion people worldwide do not have enough vitamin D in their systems, something that is happening across all ethnicities and age groups.
Researchers attribute this to many factors, including people spending more time indoors and others in some parts of the world lacking access to nutritious food.
For older people, supplements can become one of the biggest sources of vitamin D. When news about the studies into coronavirus and vitamin D started to become public, a global run on buying such supplements took off, according to the New York Times.
But people also have natural ways to get vitamin D into their system. The foremost is sunshine, which is one of the biggest sources of vitamin D. The skin contains a cholesterol compound that becomes vitamin D when exposed to sunshine. However, darker skin contains melanin that may block vitamin D production and aging skin may produce the vitamin at a lower rate.
People also have dietary options, all of which are good for nutrition over 50. Vitamin D-rich foods include fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, as well as beef liver, cheese and egg yolk. Also, some food comes fortified with vitamin D, including soy milk, orange juice and cereals.
While the scientific jury remains out on the connection between vitamin D and COVID-19, it still benefits your health to make sure you get enough of this important vitamin.