What You Need To Know About Vitamin D3 & COVID-19: The Immune System’s Heavy Hitter
Vitamin D3 is a fat soluble vitamin and pro-hormone. This means that functions as a messenger in the body, controlling and coordinating activities (4). It isn’t naturally present in many foods, it is actually produced by the body when the skin is exposed to ultra violet sunlight (5). There are certain times of the year, environments, and populations of people where it can be really difficult to get this UV exposure, so it is common to see vitamin D3 levels come back too low when checked on blood work.
Certain groups of people are prone to being vitamin D deficient (or insufficient, meaning their levels aren’t high enough for optimal health and disease prevention) such as elderly people (over 70 years), obese individuals, infants and breast fed babies, people who live in cooler climates, people who use certain medications, those with digestive conditions and kidney disease (3).
Vitamin D receptors are found on the majority of tissues in the body such as skin, bone, intestinal tissue, heart tissue, blood vessels, muscle tissue, endocrine glands, ovaries, lung tissue, and brain tissue. Because there are receptors on so many tissues, vitamin D3 has many functions in the body such as immune system modulation, calcium regulation for bone and muscle support, hormone and neurotransmitter production to name a few (6).
There have a few studies on vitamin D3 in the news lately regarding it’s use in the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. Because of it’s role in regulating inflammation in many parts of the body, but specifically the lungs and the rest of the respiratory system, and because a deficiency in vitamin D3 has been found to contribute to respiratory distress syndrome, it has been used in treatment protocols (1).
Another study found that significantly lower levels of vitamin D3 were found in patients that tested positive for COVID-19 compared to those who tested negative (2). The authors suggested that proper vitamin D3 supplementation could be a useful measure to reduce the risk of infection.
Vitamin D3 is a fat soluble vitamin, therefore it should be taken in a liquid or emulsified form for optimal absorption. It is also stored in the tissues of the body, so the appropriate dose for you will depend on age, height and weight, supplement and medication use, and multiple other factors so it is important to talk to your healthcare team about what brand, type and dose of vitamin D3 that you are using.
- Grant WB, Lahore H, McDonnell SL, et al. Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths. Nutrients. 2020;12(4):988.
- D’Avolio A, Avataneo V, Manca A, et al. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentrations Are Lower in Patients with Positive PCR for SARS-CoV-2. Nutrients. 2020;12(5):E1359.
- Sizar O, Khare S, Goyal A, et al. Vitamin D Deficiency. [Updated 2020 Feb 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266/
- Cesari, M., Incalzi, R. A., Zamboni, V., & Pahor, M. (2011). Vitamin D hormone: A multitude of actions potentially influencing the physical function decline in older persons. Geriatrics & Gerontology International, 11(2), 133–142.
- Mostafa, W.Z., & Hegazy, R.A. (2015). Vitamin D and the skin: Focus on a complex relationship: A review. Journal of Advanced Research, 6(6), 793-804.
- Liu, W., Zhang, L., Xu, H. J., Li, Y., Hu, C. M., Yang, J. Y., & Sun, M. Y. (2018). The anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin D in tumorigenesis. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 19(9), 2736.