New research is suggesting that vitamin D deficiency may be correlated with a higher number of cases as well as a higher mortality rate from COVID-19.
Three UK-based researchers discovered this correlation by comparing the mean vitamin D levels of European countries to the number of each country’s cases and mortality caused by the virus. And while this correlation needs to be looked at with more detail in many more studies, this early research may start to provide us with another reason to do all that we can to make sure we have adequate levels of this important vitamin-like hormone.
Vitamin D is known to play an important role in healthy immune function and inflammatory response, but many of us do not have high enough levels of this nutrient. Studies have shown that over 40% of Americans are likely deficient in vitamin D.
Our bodies make this important nutrient during exposure to the sun. Though sun exposure can be the best way to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D, it can be tricky and fairly unreliable depending on what part of the world we live in, differences in skin pigmentation and if we have to limit our exposure to sunlight due to skin issues or certain medications.
Foods like fortified dairy products, organ meats and fish are some of the better known sources of vitamin D, but surprisingly, certain mushrooms that have been grown in direct sunlight or exposed to UV light are likely to have higher vitamin D levels by weight than the foods mentioned above.
Many doctors are aware that it is hard to sustain adequate levels of vitamin D from sun exposure and diet alone and therefore suggest supplementing with vitamin D3. Suggested daily amounts are usually based on testing that measures the vitamin D level that you currently have, but many doctors will suggest between 1,000 and 5,000 international units, or IUs, a day.
Though this research is exciting and promising, I want to be clear that vitamin D is not a substitute for medical treatment and is not a reason to be relaxed on any of the practices that we now know help avoid the spread of this virus, like social distancing and wearing a mask in public situations.
So, of course, seek medical care if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, follow the CDC guidelines and also check with your doctor about your vitamin D levels. It may be more important than ever to make sure you have adequate levels of this necessary nutrient.