Vitamin D Linked with Less Severe Viruses

Whether snowy, cold, and grey winter days or COVID-19 social distancing are to blame for people spending more time indoors, it may be worthwhile to talk with your doctor at your next appointment about your vitamin D levels.  New research, published in the journal PLOS One, found that about half of the people studied who were deficient in vitamin D before getting COVID-19 developed severe illness, compared with less than 10 percent of people with sufficient levels of the vitamin in their blood. 

According to a recent Insider report, Israeli researchers found significant differences in the risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID between people with sufficient vitamin D levels prior to contracting the virus and those who had insufficient levels.  It is not known, however, if low vitamin D levels could be caused by underlying health conditions that may have also affected the severity of illness from the virus.

Vitamin D is important, especially for older adults, to promote bone health and prevent breaks that can often lead to a loss of mobility and independent living among seniors.  But what’s not as well understood by scientists is the role vitamin D plays in boosting the immune system to help fight off viruses like COVID that attack the respiratory system. 

The study suggests that getting enough vitamin D from natural sunlight, and foods such as fatty fish, mushrooms, and egg yolk may offer some protection against severe illness from the novel coronavirus.  However, vaccinations and boosters are still the most effective tool we have to prevent hospitalization from the COVID-19 Omicron variant. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vitamin D blood levels of 20 nanograms per milliliter are considered sufficient for most people.  The Mayo Clinic suggests that depending on lifestyle, many older adults don’t get regular exposure to sunlight and have trouble absorbing vitamin D.  A simple blood test can check your levels.   The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 600 international units (IU) for people ages 1 to 70 years, and 800 IU for adults over the age of 70.  Taking too much vitamin D can be harmful, and may interact with some medications, so it’s important to talk with your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet.