Vitamin D: why is it so important?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient responsible for increasing absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate from the intestines. Known as the sunshine vitamin it can be produced by your skin when exposed to sunlight. More precisely ultraviolet radiation from sunlight triggers the formation of vitamin D3 from the cholesterol in your skin.
Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance against certain diseases.
How do we get enough vitamin D?
As mentioned above your body naturally produces vitamin D when it’s exposed to direct sunlight. The amount of sunlight required varies depending on how far away from the equator you live. Unfortunately for many us who live in northern climes, lifestyle and geography make it difficult to get enough sunlight. With current lockdown measures in place across the globe many of us will not be getting our recommended daily Vitamin D.
Vitamin D can also be found in certain foods and supplements. Good dietary sources include fatty fish, fish oils, egg yolk, butter and liver. However, it may be difficult to get adequate amounts of this vitamin from your diet alone, as rich natural sources are rare. Supplements are the perfect way to ensure healthy levels of vitamin D with Public Health England recommending a daily dose of 10 micrograms per day. Vit Stix provide 50% of your daily vitamin D making them the perfect supplement to boost vitamin intake and drink more water.
Why is Vitamin D so important?
Firstly, a lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults, which we would all rather avoid. Second to this there is a long list of evidence that a sufficiency of vitamin D protects against viruses, especially respiratory ones, including the common cold and flu. Vitamin D increases the production of antiviral proteins and decreases cytokines, the immune molecules that can cause a “storm” of dangerous inflammation. It was these ‘cytokine storms’ that caused the Spanish flu of 1918 to be so lethal. More importantly given the current circumstances preliminary studies are showing a link between vitamin D deficiency and illness caused by coronavirus. Dr Mark Alipio has shown a correlation between the severity of Covid-19 symptoms and levels of vitamin D in the blood. A more recent European wide study suggests evidence of a link between low levels of vitamin D and the likelihood an individual will die after contracting coronavirus. The research compared average levels of vitamin D across 20 European countries with COVID-19 infection rate and mortality and showed a convincing correlation between countries with low vitamin D levels and high mortality / infection rates from Covid-19. While Trinity College Dublin published research last month which found vitamin D may be able to help reduce the severity of COVID-19.
Although these studies are correlational in nature and require more scientific scrutiny and peer review before we can tell if a vitamin D plays a causal role in Coronavirus symptomatology. It seems sensible to advice people to take vitamin D supplements at this time. It won’t do any harm and it might just save a life?
Who is most at risk of deficiency?
Supplementation may be particularly important for groups of individuals who are naturally at risk of Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is common among; dark-skinned people (pigment blocks sunlight); obese people (the vitamin gets sequestered in fat cells); type-2 diabetics (vitamin D improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin); the elderly (tend to avoid the sun and eat less vitamin D rich foods); city dwellers (see less sunlight). This may be of vital importance for those who are ‘shielding’ themselves or are stuck in inner-city flats with little or no exposure to sunlight where supplements may be the only way to get sufficient Vitamin D.