The coronavirus has been sweeping through the United States since as early as December, some sources show. Unfortunately, we are not yet close to a cure. This rapidly mutating virus is wreaking new havoc on vulnerable populations. While these mutations are not necessarily worse, or better, from the original strain, it is making it harder for scientists to come up with a vaccine. Nonetheless, more studies are being done on which vitamins help prevent infection and ease the course of the disease if we contract it, reducing the probability of death.
A new study led by William B. Grant at the Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center shows correlation of Vitamin D deficiency and mortality due to the COVID-19 virus. The researchers reviewed various European countries and their citizens’ Vitamin D levels as well as the mortality rates from the coronavirus. They found that in countries with higher Vitamin D deficiency, such as Italy and Spain, there were higher mortality rates from the virus. Although both of these countries get a lot of sun during the day, the researchers believe that because it gets so hot, people spend more time inside or under a shade than those in countries with less harsh sun. In the northern European countries with less severe heat, people were found to have higher levels of Vitamin D and also had fewer cases that ended with death from COVID-19. The researchers concluded that although more studies need to be done to find a clear link, the current findings should be used to introduce more Vitamin D into our day.
With COVID-19 remaining a ubiquitous fear, it might be tempting to start taking a bunch of supplements and spending the whole day outside. But too much Vitamin D can be just as harmful as too little. According to Poison Control, too much Vitamin D in the bloodstream can induce vomiting, nausea, painful muscles, high blood pressure, and possible kidney damage. The National Institute of Health recommends 600 IUs of Vitamin D daily for adults, 400 IUs for infants, and 800 IUs for those over the age of 70.
Getting these optimal doses is a little harder than it seems. But with an estimated 42% of Americans deficient, it is more critical than ever. Our skin produces Vitamin D when we are exposed to the sun. For better or worse, windows block UVB rays, so sitting next to a window throughout the quarantine won’t be enough. Try getting 10–15 minutes of sunshine, with no sunscreen, each day to get the optimal amount of Vitamin D. However, this can vary depending on your region, season, altitude, cloud coverage, etc.
Aside from spending a few minutes outside before putting on sunscreen, it’s also essential to eat foods with high contents of Vitamin D. Fortified soy milk has 120 IUs of Vitamin D per cup. Fortified orange juice can give up to 100 IUs per cup. Meanwhile, a 100 gram serving of mushrooms can give you over 600 IUs of Vitamin D. These quantities all vary depending on how the food was prepared, so always make sure to check the nutritional label. The most reliable way to know how much Vitamin D you’re getting is to supplement your sun exposure with Vitamin D tablets or pills. The best strain of Vitamin D in supplement form is D3. Make sure it’s made from lichen to ensure it’s vegan!
Aside from potentially reducing the infectiousness of the coronavirus and lessening the symptoms, Vitamin D has many other benefits as well. The vitamin regulates insulin levels, and helps with diabetes management. It also supports lungs and heart, healthy bones, and of course, our immune system. The bottom line is that spending some extra time outside and taking a supplement might not be a bad idea during this time. Stay healthy and take care of each other.
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Photo: Matheus Vinicius on Unsplash