Improving immune health has come to the forefront of many health discussions in the last few months especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging through nations. Many vitamins and supplements have become ‘’overnight celebrities’’ due to this fact but none more than Vitamin D3.
The effect of Vitamin D3 as a potent immune booster was not recognized until recently, the usual suspect immune boosting vitamins such as vitamin E, C, A and zinc have been in the frontline of immune support.
Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection. As immune cells in autoimmune diseases are responsive to the ameliorative effects of vitamin D, the beneficial effects of supplementing vitamin D deficient individuals with autoimmune disease may extend beyond the effects on bone and calcium homeostasis
The NHS in the UK recently announced that people who spend most time indoors especially due to lock down should take at least 10 micrograms of Vitamin D. This is due to the fact that the pandemic has made everyone sit indoors thereby limiting access to sunlight which is a main precursor to Vitamin D activation.
Covid-19 has a mortality rate that is currently higher in Northern latitudes, with Italy the highest (11.9%). Deaths and hospitalizations have to date occurred in 5.2% and 22% of patients in Northern latitudes, in 3.1% and 9.5% close to the Equator, in 0.7% and 8.7% in Southern latitudes, respectively. One explanation for this may be the higher concentration of older people in that latitude. Another explanation that scientists are contending is Vitamin D deficiency which may contribute to respiratory illnesses. In Italy, many elderly show a very high level of Vitamin D deficiency especially during the winter seasons when sunlight is especially limited.
HOW DOES VITAMIN D INFLUENCE COVID-19 SYMPTOMS?
Vitamin D deficiency; and, death rates; are both disproportionately higher in elderly Italians, Spanish, Swedish Somali, and African Americans according to a recent study, these groups of people are also shown to have very low vitamin D levels.
One of the major pathways for mortality from COVID19 is the cytokine storm.
A cytokine storm is A severe immune reaction in which the body releases too many cytokines into the blood too quickly. Cytokines play an important role in normal immune responses, but having a large amount of them released in the body all at once can be harmful. A cytokine storm can occur as a result of an infection, autoimmune condition, or other disease. It may also occur after treatment with some types of immunotherapy. Signs and symptoms include high fever, inflammation (redness and swelling), and severe fatigue and nausea. Sometimes, a cytokine storm may be severe or life threatening and lead to multiple organ failure.
Research shows that cytokine storms, which can cause severe damage to the lungs and trigger fatal acute respiratory distress, are often the cause of death in COVID-19 patients. They’re caused by misdirected attacks from the immune system. Vitamin D may help in reducing complications from unregulated inflammation and cytokine storm.
HOW MUCH VITAMIN D3 IS SAFE?
The facts above do not in any way propose gorging on Vitamin D capsules like they are candy. Vitamin D is not a silver bullet and it cannot cure COVID-19. However, it has shown to be beneficial to many people in reducing or even managing the symptoms. There is debate about how much Vitamin D can be taken by healthcare professionals and
during the influenza season, people would be well advised to take steps to increase their serum 25(OH)D concentrations to above 40 ng/mL. In winter, serum 25(OH)D values are generally near 20 ng/mL. Each 1000 IU/d of vitamin D3 raises serum 25(OH)D values by about 10 ng/mL for the average sized person. People of all ages can safely take 5000 to 10,000 IU/d of vitamin D3 for an extended time unless they have granulomatous diseases, in which case smaller doses are advised. Those diagnosed with either seasonal or pandemic influenza should be advised to take higher doses for the duration of the infection.
DARK SKIN AND VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
People with naturally very dark skin have a higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency This is because the pigment (melanin) in dark skin doesn’t absorb as much UV radiation.
NEED FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
More research still needs to be conducted to elucidate the impact of Vitamin D on COVID symptoms as we approach the winter season.