Does Vitamin D protect against Coronavirus?
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Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient found in foods such as fish, eggs, meats as well as milk, dairy products and other foods which have been fortified. Vitamin D in the form of cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) is also made in the skin when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This vitamin D goes to the liver and then TO the kidney where the metabolically active Vitamin D is formed.
African Americans and other minorities with darker skin are more likely to have Vitamin D deficiency because melanin prevents the production of Vitamin D in the skin. In addition to this, African Americans may have a lower intake of dairy foods (and therefore dietary Vitamin D) due to a higher incidence of lactose intolerance.
Other risk factors for developing vitamin D deficiency are elderly nursing home residents who do not get much sun exposure; those with chronic liver and kidney disease as well as obesity. A BMI greater than 30 is associated with Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is stored in fat cells and obesity makes it necessary to take large doses of supplementation to reach optimal levels.
The main role of Vitamin D is to promote healthy bones. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness or muscle cramps and depression. Vitamin D may also play a role in protecting against other conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, falls in older people, immune system disorders and infections, particularly upper respiratory infections.
Research is now being done to determine if Vitamin D might also help to protect against COVD-19. It is believed that persons with vitamin D deficiency are more at risk of developing COVID-19 and experiencing severe complications due to a weakened immune response.
Even though a direct cause and effect relationship between COVID-19 and Vitamin D deficiency has not been established, it has been observed that vitamin D deficiency has been are more common in the high risk populations which have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus. These include African Americans, obese individuals, older adults, and nursing home residents.