Can vitamin D lower the effects of COVID-19?
It has been observed that vitamin D-deficient individuals have increased COVID-19 risk.9 Those who had adequate levels of vitamin D were 51.5% less likely to have adverse effects.10
Higher immunity - lower risk of COVID-19
Some studies have indicated that vitamin D supplements can work as an immune system booster. Vitamin D supplements help enhance immune response. However, there hasn’t been conclusive evidence to indicate vitamin D can prevent the occurence or treat COVID-19.11
Can you be vitamin D deficient in Asia?
Yes! Despite South East Asia having a reputation of being a tropical and sunny region, many here are deficient in vitamin D. Although the sun is prevalent, people in the region tend to avoid it. Sun-protection behaviours such as use of sunscreen, staying in the shade or indoors, wearing of long sleeves and using umbrellas are common practices in this region, all of which can lead to vitamin D deficiency.12
Studies have found that there is a:
- 61% prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Malaysian women13
- 42% vitamin D deficiency among research participants in Singapore13
- 32.9% prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among indoor workers in SIngapore12
How do you get vitamin D?
When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it manufactures vitamin D. The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays interact with a protein called 7-DHC in the skin, converting it into vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D.14 We get most of our vitamin D from the sun’s rays (80%–100%) and only a small amount from our diet.
Vitamin D can be found in:15
- fatty fish and oysters
- beef liver
- fortified cereals
- dairy products
How does vitamin D deficiency affect the immune system?
Adequate vitamin D benefits overall immune function and the health of specific immune cells.16
A lack of vitamin D may result in:18
- frequent colds and flu
- viral and bacterial respiratory diseases
- hair loss
What risk factors can lead to vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by specific factors, such as:19
Age: As you age, your skin's ability to make vitamin D lessens.
Lifestyle: People who are homebound, sedentary, lower their exposure to vitamin D.
Skin tone: People with tanned / darker skin are protected by melanin and therefore less able to make vitamin D than fair skinned people.20
Diet: Vitamin D is not present in most plant-based foods. Most of the natural sources of vitamin D are animal-based.
Clothing: If you wear clothing that covers most of your skin, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency.17
Sunscreen: Experts believe that regular use of sunscreen can cause a vitamin D deficiency.20
What is the recommended daily intake of vitamin D?
How much vitamin D you need depends on many factors. These include:21
- medical conditions
- sun exposure
Generally, the recommended nutrient intake (RNI) for vitamin D is:21
RNI for adults:
Men 18 - 60 years - 5 µg/day or 200 IU
Women 18 - 60 years - 5 µg/day or 200 IU
RNI for elderly
Men 60 and above - 15 µg/day or 600 IU
Women 60 and above - 15 µg/day or 600 IU
How can you get your recommended dose of vitamin D?
Even if you live in the tropics with an abundance of sunshine, you can still be deficient in vitamin D due to various factors, such as lifestyle and other reasons. If your lifestyle and diet prevent regular, sufficient sun exposure or food sources of vitamin D, it is possible to improve your levels with vitamin and mineral supplements that contain sufficient vitamin D.