Analysis suggests significance of vitamin D for good well being within the context of COVID-19
As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread worldwide, proactive measures to reduce the risk of infection are crucial as there is still no approved vaccine to block coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) with severe acute respiratory Syndrome or an approved drug is available for safe treatment of COVID-19 disease.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to the development of severe COVID-19. Correcting a vitamin D deficiency can be a good goal in the fight against the pandemic.
A researcher at the University of North Carolina’s UNC Nutrition Research Institute found that avoiding vitamin D deficiency can help reduce your risk of severe COVID-19.
In addition, the elderly, obese, and dark-skinned people are likely to need extra vitamin D, especially during the dark winter and spring months.
Vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19
The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak first occurred in Wuhan City, China, in late December 2019. From there it has expanded to over 191 countries and territories. There are currently more than 62.6 million people infected worldwide, with over 1.45 million people dead.
The current study, published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health, highlights the factors that can affect vitamin D status and how these are related to COVID-19.
Recent studies have shown the benefits of vitamin D in fighting respiratory infections. The active vitamin D metabolite 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25D) is produced in immune cells and triggers the expression of several genes that are linked to a healthy immune response.
The metabolite is also associated with the maturation and recruitment of macrophages, the increased production of cathelicidin and other antibacterial peptides, and the promotion of phagocytosis.
However, vitamin D deficiency exists in some areas of the world, particularly in locations greater than 40 degrees latitude, including the UK, central and northern Europe, Canada and the northern half of the United States, and some regions of the southern hemisphere a common problem in winter and spring.
People with low vitamin D status are more likely to develop respiratory infections. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, health experts believe increasing vitamin D levels is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
A recent editorial also found that countries below the 35 ° north latitude and across the southern hemisphere appear to have lower COVID-19 death rates than countries further north. The study’s author believes that a lower capacity to produce vitamin D in higher northern latitudes affects vitamin D status during the cold season and contributes to high mortality rates.
Key modulators of vitamin D status
Various factors can affect vitamin D status. First, food intake plays an important role in determining vitamin D status. Few foods, mainly fatty cold-water fish such as sardines, herring, mackerel and salmon, naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D.
Some doctors recommend vitamin D3 supplementation to increase vitamin D levels in the body. Most people get very modest amounts of vitamin D through diet.
Another important modulator of vitamin D status is exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB). Most of the vitamin D in the blood comes from skin exposure to ultraviolet light with wavelengths between 280 and 313 nm, commonly known as ultraviolet B (UVB).
If you get enough sun exposure, you can increase your vitamin D levels. Spending too much time indoors, prolonged cloud cover, high levels of air pollution, covering the skin with clothing and sunscreen, however, can limit the production of vitamin D in the skin.
Aging can also affect how much vitamin D a person has in their body. Older age can lead to lower vitamin D status. Older adults have progressive skin thinning, reducing the amount of the 7-dehydrocholesterol precursor available for vitamin D conversion.
People who are overweight may also have low vitamin D status. In a study, the scientists found that the resulting reduced vitamin D status is reversible when excess weight is lost.
In addition, some genetic variations can also affect vitamin D status. For example, skin tone can affect the body’s ability to produce vitamin D in the skin. In one study, almost all non-Hispanic blacks and most Mexicans had vitamin D insufficiency.
“In the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is now appropriate to look again at the very high prevalence of severe vitamin D deficiency there and elsewhere,” concluded the researcher in the study.
“Advanced age, obesity, darker skin tone, and risk-related genotypes, especially when combined, are red flags that should trigger corrective action, typically with a moderate, customized dose of extra vitamin D,” he added.
The author of the study emphasizes that while the preventive potential of vitamin D supplements should not be exaggerated, the prevention of vitamin D deficiency should be a widespread goal. Because the severity of COVID-19 has also been linked to low vitamin D status, monitoring their vitamin D levels is crucial for people at high risk.