Vitamin D and COVID-19

Wintertime in Cleveland really sucks. Snow. Cold. Gray skies. Did I mention snow? Colds and flu. This year’s winter has really taken the cake, though. COVID-19 has shut down the world, it seems.

I’m finding it really fascinating to read some of the explosion of research about COVID-19. Researchers are furiously trying to figure out what distinguishes those who are prone to more severe cases of this illness from those who have only mild symptoms.

A number of risk factors have emerged. Some are obvious, like diabetes and chronic lung disease. Others are making the medical community scratch their heads, like hypertension.

Recently a protective factor has emerged: vitamin D. It turns out that those with mild cases of COVID-19 are more likely to have normal vitamin D levels than those that have more severe cases or who are critically ill. What’s the link between vitamin D and COVID-19?

We know that vitamin D is important in supporting immune function and decreases your risk of getting colds and flu. Where does vitamin D come from, anyway?

Vitamin D is made in the skin in response to UVB light from the sun. UVB is blocked by clouds and by the atmosphere, so exposure is low in the winter in the higher latitudes and during the rainy season in the tropics. People with darker skin (such as people of African and Asian descent) make less vitamin D in their skin with a given amount of sun exposure.

There are not many dietary sources of vitamin D. Most dairy milk in the USA is fortified with added vitamin D, but there is not much in there. Most dairy milk is fortified to 100 units per cup. Given that it seems most adults need 2000-4000 units of vitamin D every DAY, you definitely can’t rely on dairy milk to get what you need.

So we’re left with supplementation. The best way to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D is to have your doctor check a blood test. Current guidance is that your level should be around 50 to be optimal.

Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans have higher morbidity and mortality from COVID-19. Older adults have worse disease. These groups also generally have lower blood levels of vitamin D. I don’t think this is a coincidence.

If you can’t get to your doctor to get tested just now, that’s OK, you can definitely add a vitamin D supplement. I definitely recommend taking at least 2000 units every day, all year around.

There is a lot of fear right now surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Making sure you are getting enough vitamin D every day is a simple thing that will help improve your health and support your immune system, and may help reduce your risk of a severe illness if you do contract COVID-19.

Want personalized recommendations to meet your nutritional needs?  Contact me at 888-741-9153 or drjen@jenniferwurstmd.com!

QUESTION: Do you take a vitamin D supplement every day?

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