Contribued by: Rachana Arya
Vitamin D, ‘the sunshine vitamin,’ is well-known for serving many purposes in the body, the most commonly known purpose being assisting calcium absorption in our bodies and reducing the risk of osteoporosis. It is however less well-known that Vitamin D also plays a vital role in immunologic function—keeping your immune system strong and healthy.
Recently, there have been several emerging reports suggesting that vitamin D supplementation could be favorable in preventing and treating COVID-19. Several observational studies on the link between Vitamin D and COVID-19 have been published, emphasizing its potential protective role against acute respiratory distress syndrome. Some have shown a correlation between low levels of Vitamin-D and the severity of their coronavirus outcome. However, there are also studies that have concluded no correlation between vitamin D and susceptibility of COVID-19.
So, what is the verdict?
Is vitamin D effective for COVID prevention and treatment?
It would seem wrong to enthusiastically promote and support this claim as all the research on coronavirus is in its infancy, and it is difficult to draw any clear conclusions and recommendations. Data reported in the literature concerning the effects of vitamin D supplementation during Covid 19 infection remain controversial given the complex pathology of COVID-19. Looking ahead, clinical studies are needed to analyze the vitamin D level in COVID-19 patients and its impact on the disease severity.
Nevertheless, what is clear is that being deficient in Vitamin D, or any other nutrient for that matter, puts you at risk of much more than just COVID-19. So reflecting on your Vitamin D intake and exposure is definitely worthwhile!
Take the below quiz to find out if you are getting enough of this critical nutrient. Calculate the total points for each answer and tally the scores below
1. How old are you?
- A. Below 20 years (1 point)
- B. 20 to 30 years (1 point)
- C. 30 to 40 years (2 points)
- D. Above 40 years (3 points)
2. How much sunlight do you normally get between 11 am and 1 pm each day?
- A. None (3 points)
- B. 10 to 20 minutes (2 points)
- C. 20 to 40 minutes (1 point)
3. Describe the tone of your skin?
- A. Dark-skinned (3 points)
- B. Wheatish-tone (2 points)
- C. Fair-skinned (1 point)
4. How many vitamin D-rich foods do you consume every day?
- A. Fatty fish (1 point)
- B. Vitamin-D Fortified milk (1 point)
- C. Beef liver (1 point)
- D. Egg yolks (1 point)
5. How often do you apply sunscreens?
- A. Immediately on stepping into the sun (3 points)
- B. Rarely, but only on stepping out for a long time (2 points)
- C. Never (1 point)
6. How many of the following signs of vitamin-D deficiency have you experienced? (1 point for each)
- A. Fatigue and tiredness
- B. Sleep issues
- C. Pale face
- D. Hair loss
- E. Frequent cramps, sprains, or fractures
- F. Low Immunity
- G. Muscle pain
- H. Low bone density
- I. Chronic pain in back, legs, ribs, or joints
- J. Low stamina
- K. Impaired healing of wounds
- L. Hormonal changes
- M. Depression and Anxiety
- N. Osteoporosis and Osteomalacia
- O. Vague aches and pains and a general sense of not being well
15 to 30: Your Vitamin D levels are too inadequate for optimal health. It is recommended that you get a vitamin D deficiency test performed. The chances of having low vitamin D levels are extremely high, and tests will help assess the degree of your deficiency. Get plenty of sun and eat vitamin D-rich foods. Consult your nutritionist about getting a supplement that contains 800 IU (the minimum amount of vitamin D) per day. And remember, if you’re over 40, have darker skin, often apply sunscreen, and mostly remain indoors, you may need a higher dose of the supplement.
10-15: You don’t have a total lack of Vitamin D; however, you may have a borderline deficiency. Your levels may just be at baseline levels to avoid diseases like osteoporosis, but you may still experience fatigue, mood swings, and body aches. Increase your intake of vitamin D-fortified foods and seek advice from your nutritionist if you need a supplement to boost vitamin D levels.
1-10: Congratulations! Your vitamin D levels are sufficient, so there’s no rationale for adding more. However, don’t sit back and take it easy. To maintain required vitamin D levels, make sure you continue to get enough sun exposure and consume a variety of foods that are considered to be good sources of Vitamin D.
Well, does that necessarily mean that you should start taking a short-term, mega-dose of Vitamin D during the coronavirus lockdown?!
Since Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, doing so may lead to excessive build-up in your body and that can cause negative consequences. Extremely large doses can cause toxicity. Hence if you are considering adding more Vitamin D to your diet, speak with your healthcare provider. The aim is to avoid deficiency and maintain a healthy immune system.
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