The current pandemic has spurred many new studies as experts seek to learn more about coronavirus and the body’s immune response. A chunk of that research has pointed to vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, as a helpful supplement for preventing more severe reactions to the virus. So how important is vitamin D in the role of immunity and protection from coronavirus? And how much vitamin D should you take daily to reap the benefits?
Importance of Vitamin D for the Immune System
Although it’s well known that vitamin D is good for bone health, recent studies show it also has a significant impact on the immune system. Vitamin D boosts the ability of immune cells so they produce more proteins to fight infections including viruses and bacteria. It also lessens the damage that some white blood cells cause; although white blood cells generally help the body to fight infections, when the white blood cell count is too high, it can signal infection.
Additional research shows that vitamin D provides protection from a variety of respiratory conditions and illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tuberculosis, and asthma. And low vitamin D levels may increase the risk of certain bacterial and viral infections.
Vitamin D and Coronavirus
While there are no studies that show taking vitamin D supplements can prevent contracting coronavirus, researchers have found that low vitamin D levels could make it harder to recover and increase complications once someone does contract the virus. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with several negative results for hospitalized patients, including death, greater severity, and longer hospital stays, especially in senior populations.
Recommended Vitamin D Levels
Most specialists indicate that ideal vitamin D levels range between 30–60 ng/mL (75–150 nmol/L). As such, more than 97% of people should have an average daily vitamin D intake of 400–800 IU, or 10–20 micrograms. These ranges can vary depending on the individual’s blood levels and whether they are already vitamin D deficient.
However, the answer to how much vitamin D your body needs varies based on several factors. A person’s age, race, exposure to sun, ethnicity and other health conditions must be considered when determining the proper levels of vitamin D. For example, in postmenopausal women with vitamin D levels below 20 ng/ml, taking the recommended amount was not enough to raise blood levels to the required 30 ng/ml. People who have little sun exposure or are obese may also need higher amounts of vitamin D.
Other Ways To Protect Yourself
Although there is still so much to learn about coronavirus, solely taking vitamin D supplements without other protective methods is not enough. It’s important to evaluate overall nutritional health to ensure that all vitamin levels are met, not just vitamin D. Poor health habits and chronic diseases also cause more severe complications and outcomes from coronavirus and other infections.
Wearing masks and other protective face coverings as well as maintaining social distancing are still necessary behaviors to ensure adequate protection. As the results of multiple clinical trials become available, the effects of vitamin D on patients with coronavirus will bring new insights. In the meantime, make sure you’re getting outside and discuss your vitamin D levels with your doctor.