Can Vitamin D help you fight off Covid-19?
By Eamonn and Siobhan of Whelehans Pharmacies
The Irish Medical Journal (IMJ) highlighted the importance of Vitamin D supplementation in Ireland due to the high percentage of deficiency and reported studies showing how Vitamin D prevents respiratory infections including Covid-19 and easing symptoms for those who get infected. (IMJ, April 2020)
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It helps absorb calcium and phosphorus in the intestines so it can be absorbed by the bones, keeping the skeleton strong. Therefore, preventing bone diseases including, osteoporosis and rickets in children. Vitamin D deficiency also causes a mild muscle weakness, thus increasing the risk of falls and hence fractures in older people. Therefore, vitamin D supplementation is often important in this age group. It is also known as the “good mood vitamin” and research shows is helps fight depression.
How is Vitamin D Produced?
Vitamin D can be produced in our skin, taking supplements or in the food we eat. The most effective way of making Vitamin D is 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight to our skin from late March until September, which means this vitamin cannot be made in our skin during the Winter months. Even the amount we absorb in the summer months can be affected by cloud coverage and rainy weather. Vitamin D is found in foods like Oily Fish (salmon & mackerel), liver, cereals, eggs and dairy products. For those who cannot get enough vitamin D through diet alone, supplements as well as an adequate diet can help.
Are we getting enough Vitamin D?
According to research carried out by The Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), there is a lack of daily intake of Vitamin D across Ireland.
TILDA’S main conclusions include:
- Only 15% of women and 4% of men take a daily Vitamin D supplement
- One in eight people over 50 are deficient all the time
- Estimated that 27% of adults over 70, who are ‘cocooning’ are deficient
- 47% of adults over 85 are deficient in the Winter months
What are the Risk Factors for Vitamin D Deficiency?
- Being elderly
- Physically inactive or obese
- Not eating oily fish, cereals or dairy products
- Staying indoors
- Having dark skin
Groundbreaking Irish Study on Vitamin D benefits against Covid 19
A study by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) as well as research from Technological University Dublin (published in Irish Medical Journal in April 2020) indicated that Vitamin D reduces risk of getting Covid 19 and helps fight it for those infected with Covid-19. TILDA is an ongoing study of people over the age of 50 in Ireland. According to its report, Vitamin D Deficiency in Ireland - Implications for COVID 19, vitamin D plays an essential role in preventing respiratory infections, reducing antibiotic use, and boosting the immune system's response to infections.
What is the Correlation between Vitamin D and Covid-19?
According to the research findings, people who do not have enough Vitamin D in their body have a higher chance of getting a respiratory infection (Chest infection) and Pneumonia as well as having little or no resistance to these infections. This points out that people who do not have enough Vitamin D in their body can spread these infections due to their lack of resistance. Taking Vitamin D supplements may reduce risk of getting respiratory infections including Covid-19. The findings indicate if Covid 19 infection occurs, vitamin D supplements may even ease symptoms and speed up recovery times with these respiratory infections. The findings conclude that vitamin may be able to slow down the spread of Covid 19 infection and with the help of resistance, help flatten the curve.
Who should be taking Vitamin D supplements?
Dr Declan Byrne a clinical Senior Lecture at St James’ Hospital and Trinity College Dublin has made an important statement:
“Our findings call for the immediate supplementation of all hospital inpatients, nursing home residents and older Irish adults with vitamin D. Our findings also suggest that vitamin D supplementation in the broader adult population, and particularly in frontline healthcare workers, may further help to limit infection and flatten the Covid-19 curve,"
With this statement in mind, supplements are essential for people who are at a higher risk of deficiency. This include frontline Healthcare workers, people over 50 who do not get much sun and those who do not eat oily fish and dairy products. In addition, many older people in residential care settings such as nursing home rarely see sun so vitamin D supplements may be needed. Individuals who are ‘cocooning’ should be taking supplements also.
What is the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D?
The recommended daily dose of vitamin D is suggested to be 800-2000iu which is 25 – 50 micrograms per day. This is only a short-term dose to adhere to the current risk of Covid-19 infection. If you wish to take a dose greater than 20 micrograms a day longer term, you should consult your doctor.
Vitamin D is available over the counter. There are different brands of Vitamin D.
We supply Whelehans own Brand 1000iu of Vitamin D3. At Whelehans Pharmacies, our Vitamin D supplements cost less than €5 per month and are available over the counter without prescription. Vitamin D3 is the easiest type of vitamin D to absorb. If you have a medical card, Vitamin D is covered on it with a prescription from your GP.
References available upon request. Supplements are not a substitute for a balance diet
Keep up to date on Covid-19 updates at www.hse.ie
Written by Siobhan Clarke (Pharmacy Technician) and Eamonn Brady (Pharmacist). Whelehans Pharmacies, 38 Pearse St and Clonmore, Mullingar. Tel 04493 34591 (Pearse St) or 04493 10266 (Clonmore). www.whelehans.ie