How Does Vitamin D Immunity Affect Covid-19: A Prevention or Cure?
May 22, 2020
Ever wondered about the correlation between Vitamin D, your immunity and Covid-19? This article addresses the question of Vitamin D for Covid-19: whether the vitamin offers protection or a cure for the infection.
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble vitamins most popularly known for their crucial effect on the development of healthy bones.
We know of several sources of Vitamin D.
In humans, Vitamin D is created by the action of sun rays on a form of cholesterol found in the skin.
So, these ultraviolet beta (UVB) rays lead to the creation of Vitamin D in the skin that is further activated in the Liver and Kidneys.
Other sources are from the foods we eat, some of which are rich in Vit D sources like
Firstly, in addition to the effect on bones, a significant impact of Vitamin D is also the suppression of inflammatory processes
To clarify, inflammation is a key feature of what is happening in your body when the immune system is fighting illness.
Some previous studies report independent associations between low blood levels of Vitamin D and increased risk of acute respiratory tract infections.
However, there is some controversy on whether Vit D can actually protect against these respiratory infections like Influenza, with more studies pending to make any conclusions.
Studies show Vitamin D interacts with the immune system in many ways, including a link between low levels and autoimmune disease.
Examples of these conditions are Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) etc.
We think there might be a few different interactions, but let’s just look at one of the possibilities.
Very interesting is the way it works on specific cells of the innate immune system (the body’s first responder).
These cells are called macrophages, and part of their activity is to release inflammatory cytokines in response to threats like Covid-19.
You’ve probably heard of the Cytokine storm.
It is an excessive release of these inflammatory chemicals by the immune system in response to a threat that could overwhelm the body rather than fight off the disease.
It has been shown that the entire illness process of Covid-19 is caused by a combination of the virus virulence and pro-inflammatory cytokines.
One of Vit D’s activities is preventing the macrophage from releasing too many of these inflammatory cytokines.
Therefore, Vit D may provide protection from severe Covid-19 disease.
Scientists feel there are a few ways this can be demonstrated:
People with obesity develop a significantly more severe disease when they contract the Covid-19 infection.
They also appear to have low blood Vit D levels.
Some scientists debating the reason for the relationship between obese people and Covid-19 tend to lean towards the thinking that there is:
Furthermore, the link for Vitamin D hinges on the second reason.
That is – people with obesity who have low Vit D levels have an excessive amount of inflammatory Cytokines, which in the case of Covid-19, drives more severe disease.
Studies show the role of vitamin D deficiency (low Vit D levels) in immune reactions that leads to a degree of inflammation in fat tissue.
These fatty tissues contain specialised immune cells (lymphocytes and macrophages).
But we have to say that not all scientists think this way.
Some do not agree that all obese people have low Vit D levels or show any sign of low Vit D (like weak bones).
So the debate on this point continues.
The second reason is a link with respiratory infections, which we have briefly addressed.
Studies have demonstrated that Vit D use can protect against respiratory infections – especially in people with severe deficiencies.
These findings are mostly from studies involving the viral infection of Influenza.
Scientists are still exploring if the same links exist with other respiratory infections.
Lastly, a recent European study “identified a potential crude association between the mean Vitamin D levels in various European countries” with their COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The study found severely low levels of Vitamin D in countries like Spain, Italy, and Nordic countries; in older people.
These same countries had high Covid-19 infection and death rates, especially among older people.
We know that your Vitamin D status will reduce with age – usually above 70 years of life.
It likely happens from a combination of reduced sun exposure and the production of Vit D in the skin.
“The most vulnerable group of the population for Covid-19, the ageing population, is also the one that has the most deficit Vitamin D levels.”
So these links with obesity, older age and respiratory infections are possible trends suggesting a link between low Vit D levels and severe Covid-19 disease.
According to a recently (May 1st 2020) published report by the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine UK (Vitamin D: A rapid review of the evidence for treatment or prevention in COVID-19)
Should you take Vitamin D supplements?
Yes, but be aware that there is no current, reliable evidence linking vitamin D to preventing or curing Covid19.
Vitamin D is especially advisable for those who may be at risk of low levels – elderly, melanin skin, inadequate sun exposure etc.
Many studies are going on to determine the answers to these issues.
Meanwhile, It’s also important to recall that taking any vitamin in higher quantities than recommended will not provide a more significant benefit.
Instead, it could lead to serious side effects (excess blood calcium in the case of Vitamin D), which can harm the heart and kidneys.
Hopefully, this post has given you insights about Vitamin D and its significant impact in fighting the Covid-19 disease.
Let us know how you feel about these insights down in the comments; would you want to up your dose of Vitamin D, or would you rather not?
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality healthcare.
The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly
Image Credits: Canva
Want to know how your comment data is processed? Learn more