Do you have a Vitamin D deficiency? Covid-19 can impact you more severely

Published on: 7 February 2022, 10:44 am IST

We know that vitamin D deficiency can impact our health negatively, but a new study indicates that Covid-19 could hit us harder if we lack it.

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Vitamin D deficiency can increase severity of Covid-19. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Medical experts have reiterated the benefits of Vitamin D enough for us to be convinced that this ‘sunshine victim’ can drive our body on the path of well-being. Now a new study has emerged, indicating the link between a pre-infection vitamin D deficiency and the severity of how Covid-19 can impact us.

While Vitamin D may often be associated with the upkeep of bone health, various studies across the world have pointed out its role in the onset of autoimmune, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases. If you remember, when the Covid-19 struck the world, people were urged to concentrate on Vitamin D intake as it has the power to improve the immune system and guard people against the coronavirus.

covid-19
Build your immunity against Covid-19! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Link between Covid-19 and vitamin D deficiency

According to a latest study, there’s a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and Covid-19 severity and mortality. The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE,
and conducted by researchers from the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University in Safed, Israel and the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, Israel.

It analyzes vitamin D levels prior to infection as it gives a more accurate assessment of the effect than during hospitalization when levels of this vitamin may anyway be lower. The study is based on records of 1,176 patients admitted between April 2020 and February 2021 to the Galilee Medical Center (GMC) with positive PCR tests. They were searched for vitamin D levels measured two weeks to two years prior to infection.

“Patients with vitamin D deficiency (less than 20 ng/mL) were 14 times more likely to have severe or critical case of COVID than those with more than 40 ng/mL,” reads the study. In another interesting finding, mortality among patients with sufficient vitamin D levels was 2.3 percent as compared to 25.6 percent in those with a vitamin D deficiency.

Adjustments for age, gender, season (summer/winter) and chronic diseases were made by researchers, and similar results indicated that low vitamin D level contributes significantly to disease severity and mortality.

“Our results suggest that it is advisable to maintain normal levels of vitamin D. This will be beneficial to those who contract the virus. There is a clear consensus
for vitamin D supplementation on a regular basis as advised by local health authorities as well as global health organizations,” said Dr Amiel Dror, of the Galilee Medical Center and Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University, who led the study.

vitamin D deficiency
Get your dose of Vitamin D from food, sun and supplements. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What is vitamin D?

This is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods, and available as a dietary supplement or it can be made in the body when the sunlight is absorbed through the skin. Vitamin D helps in regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate present in our blood. It also helps in the absorption of calcium which is important to maintain strong and healthy bones. It also contributes to the health of our muscles, nerves and immune system.

There are two types of Vitamin D in the diet and supplements:

* Vitamin D2 called as ergocalciferol ( majorly found in mushrooms)
* Vitamin D3 called as cholecalciferol ( majorly found in animal food products such as oily fish, fish liver oil and egg yolks)

D3 is more powerful and raises vitamin D levels almost twice as much as D2, according to Gurpreet Kaur, Clinical Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Chandigarh.

Vitamin D is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin as the final product of vitamin D conversion in the body is considered a hormone. And this hormone has a wide effect on our immune system, Kaur breaks it down.

Also Read: Watch out for these tell-tale signs that you’re low on Vitamin D

diabetes and vitamin d deficiency
A lack of vitamin D may lead to more lifestyle diseases too. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How does vitamin D deficiency affect your body?

If we do not get enough vitamin D, we may be at risk for

* Developing Rickets (rare disease that causes bones to become soft and bend)
* Osteomalacia (that causes weak bones, bone pain and muscle weakness) and other bone disorders
* Diabetes
* Hypertension
* Alzheimer’s disease
* Cancer
* Heart stroke
* It may slow the aging process
* Increased risk of acute illness, inflammatory injuries and stress fractures.

What is the daily vitamin D requirement?

There are many factors that help determine the amount of Vitamin D a person needs, explains Kaur.

* The daily recommended requirement is 600 IU per day for individuals from 1 to 70 years of age and 800 IU per day for above 70 year of age (same recommendations for
lactating mother and pregnant ladies).
* For infants, the daily requirement of Vitamin D is 400 IU/day.
* Individuals who are vitamin D deficient needs to take 6000 IU to reach sufficient blood levels.
– People who are overweight or obese may also needs higher amount of Vitamin D.

vitamin D deficiency
Make sun exposure a routine! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What are the main sources of vitamin D?

* Sunlight exposure

The best way to get Vitamin D naturally is from the sun. But due to the inadequate exposure to sunlight in winters, we need to add foods loaded with Vitamin D in our diet. It may be cold outside, but you can still catch some rays by taking the long way to work, go for a short walk after lunch. Spending 15 to 30 minutes outdoors three times a week before afternoon is all you need.

* Foods containing Vitamin D

There are very few foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin D. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, fish oils, egg yolks, dairy products fortified with vitamin D and edible mushrooms are few vitamin D-rich sources. There are many vitamin D enriched sources available in the market such as soy milk, yogurt, orange juices.

* Supplements

You could also consult your doctor if you believe your vitamin D levels are low. After performing a blood test and assessing your current levels, your doctor will prescribe a dose of vitamin D or recommend a supplement. Doses differ for every body and taking too much vitamin D can be toxic, so always consult your physician before taking supplements.

Radhika Bhirani Radhika Bhirani

Content Head for Healthshots.

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