Vitamin D and COVID-19

The news media have been extensively covering the publication of research papers over the summer that suggest that vulnerable people should all be taking vitamin D supplements as a precaution against being infected by COVID. If you have been reading these reports you may be wondering what you should do?

Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin as we are all able to make it in our skin when the skin surface is lit by the sunlight. Our bodies cannot make it without sunlight so NHS recommendations are for short periods of direct sunlight on our face and arms every day. We can also get vitamin D from our food, principally oily fish, eggs and red meat.

Evidence shows that many of us (20%) in the UK have quite low levels of vitamin D in our bodies, especially during the darker months (October – March) when we don’t get much sunlight shining on our island. There are also people who don’t get much exposure at any time of the year due to their circumstances – for example, they might work at night or they might be unable to get outdoors every day. Sunlight shining through a window is usually insufficient to make vitamin D. People with darker skin pigmentation can also find it difficult to maintain levels of vitamin D.

Foods that contain lots of vitamin D are often not eaten every day, so many people supplement their diet with tablets that contain their daily dose. NHS guidelines are that in general everyone over age 5 should take 10mcg (400UI) Vitamin D per day from October – March. Those people who see very little direct sunlight or who find it difficult to maintain their vitamin D levels should take the supplement all year round. NOTE some people take calcium tablets that are already supplemented with vitamin D, so in that case need no further supplementation.
That said, individuals can be very variable in how much Vitamin D supplement they need so if in doubt see your doctor.

Does vitamin D protect us from COVID-19? So far the answer is maybe but there is not enough evidence to strongly support the suggestion. Studies are ongoing. However as already discussed there is plenty of evidence to suggest that you need to ensure that you get enough vitamin D regardless of COVID-19. Keep your levels up and you will benefit in lots of ways – if we find in the future it is good for prevention of COVID-19 infection, so much the better.

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