With the pandemic cases rising high across the nation, current research explains the link between Covid-19 high mortality rates and its link with low Vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D is a unique hormone, where its origin dates back to 0.5 billion years ago when it was produced in ocean-dwelling phytoplanktons while they were being exposed to sunlight. It is a free hormone, so let us bust some myths through this article 

Vitamin D
Vitamin D. Representational Image.

Did our ancestors experience Vitamin D deficiency? 

Our ancestors practised Surya Namaskar, Surya arghya, sunbathing, house chores like grinding spices, husking rice with mortar and pestle, crushing grain with a stone pestle, winnowing rice or rolling cow dung cake for fuel in the verandahs facing the sun, infants were given massages and soaked in the sun.

These practices make us believe that our ancestors had immense knowledge of lifestyle and benefit of this wonder vitamin. Migration from rural villages to cities or a shift from traditional practices to modern lifestyle practices has made us less exposed to UV ray. 

What happens if you are low on Vitamin D?

Vitamin D has been linked with strong immunity, decrease in insulin resistance, lower rates of depression and anxiety, reducing some cancers as it helps in calcium absorption, joint pain, osteoporosis, dry eyes and many other health conditions.

Is there a strong link between Covid-19 virus and Vitamin D deficiency?

In the current scenario of Covid19 pandemic, researchers have found a link between high mortality rates in people who are deficient in vitamin d. They have found protective evidence between vitamin d and respiratory tract infections.

So yes, serum vitamin d levels have a strong association in building immunity and has a link with mortality rates in covid19 virus. Also, Vitamin D helps in the production of glutathione which is a powerful antioxidant. High levels of this antioxidants spare the use of Vitamin C which further helps in boosting immunity.

Creatives coronavirus

What are suggested dosage for oral supplementation of Vitamin D and Covid-19?

Research suggests that low levels of serum vitamin d risk acute respiratory tract infections and compromise immunity, hence, an initial dosage of oral intake of 10,000 IU is suggested for few weeks followed by 5,000 Iu per day to maintain a level between 60nmol/l- 100nmol/l. But do not overdose, check your serum levels and then guided by your physician.

Do Vitamin D levels reduce with age?

Yes, this is mostly because of older age, less time is being spent outdoors in the sun. Ageing lower levels of 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin (which is responsible for the absorption of UV rays).

With age kidney functions decline, decrease calcium absorption, lower intake of vitamin d through food, this further adds to lower conversion rate of vitamin d from the sun.

Though, sunscreen succeeded in reducing the DNA damage and delayed development of the skin cancer, it couldn't still completely safeguard the p53 gene against the harms caused by UV light.(Oliver Allen/Flickr)

How does vitamin d get absorbed if we sit under the sun?

Vitamin D cannot be synthesized in our body without UV rays. When these rays are absorbed into our skin, it converts it into a pre-vitamin d 3 (an inactive form) which further in the liver and kidney is converted into an active form of vitamin D.

What is an adequate range of serum Vitamin D levels?

A blood range between 60nmol/ l – 100nmol/l is considered an adequate level. According to WHO, a level below 50nmol/ l is considered insufficient.

How and what time should we expose to the sun?

It must be noted that melanin ( which gives colour to our skin) reduces the absorption of UV rays. The amount of vitamin D our skin makes depends on various factors, including the time of day, season, latitude and your skin pigmentation. Depending on where we live and our lifestyle, vitamin d production might decrease or vary.

The best time in India during summers in to soak up the sun before 9:30 am, with your bodies back facing the sun. This is advised considering absorption is faster while facing the back towards the sun and not your face. Wear protective clothing like cotton. The absorption of Uv rays can be completely absent during the winter months or the time may vary.

What factors can reduce the absorption of UV rays?

Sunscreen, while important, also can decrease vitamin D production. Thick clothing, inability reduced skin production as a result of ageing, lack of sunlight exposure, latitude and longitudinal difference, time of the day and duration, melanin or pigmentation.

vitamin D
In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, bowel cancer patients who had highest blood vitamin D levels had half the risk of mortality than those with lower amounts.Photo: Colin Dunn/Flickr

When is the best time to consume Vitamin D3 supplement?

Consumption of fat in a meal helps in the absorption of any oral supplementation of vitamin d3 as vitamin d is a fat-soluble vitamin. The oral supplement should be consumed with your main meal, preferred before sunset. Vitamin D can interfere with the sleep hormone melatonin.

Which foods are rich sources of Vitamin D?

Foods which are rich sources of vitamin d are sea greens like seaweeds, algae, spirulina, cod liver oil, any oily fish, egg yolks and foods which are fortified with vitamin d like milk, cheese, orange juice, breakfast cereals.

Why are fish rich in Vitamin D?

They eat phytoplankton, seaweeds, sea greens, sea urchins which are the richest sources of the vitamin D.

Salmon is a rich source of fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids.CreativeCommons/stu_spivack

What is the average recommended dosage of Vitamin D?

On an average elderly needs 800 IU, infants need 400 IU and 1 year – 50 years – 600 IU per day.

Do we need an oral supplementation for Vitamin D?

Yes, due to change in lifestyle, irregular dietary patterns and an underlying health issue, Vitamin D absorption can be impaired. At lower serum concentration levels, vitamin D supplement is advised.

What is a safe oral dosage for Vitamin D supplement?

Oral supplementation of Vitamin D3 supplement up to 5000 IU per day is considered safe. However, please consult your physician on dose recommendation of vitamin D. Research shows on a long term consuming 10,000 IU per day can be toxic.

What happens if we overdose on Vitamin D?

Please note excess consumption of Vitamin D orally can be toxic. There could also be underlying health issues which could interfere with vitamin d conversion. Please consult your physician before supplementing.

(About the author: This is a guest article by Swati Bathwal, an accredited practising Dietitian Nutritionist and Public Health Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, an accredited Anthropometrist and a registered Yoga Teacher.)