Besides its benefits to bone health, vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system. Previous studies have even shown that vitamin D may help prevent respiratory tract infections, but can it also protect against the new coronavirus?
The Potential Role of Vitamin D in the COVID-19 Pandemic
First off, there is currently no evidence that vitamin D can treat or prevent the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Because the new coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2 or 2019-nCoV) is so new, there is a lack of published studies on possible treatments or prevention strategies.
A number of studies have also found that supplementation with vitamin D may have protective effects against respiratory tract infections, although it’s unknown if this applies to 2019-nCoV as well [4, 5, 6].
While researchers work to identify treatments against 2019-nCoV, the best protective measures you can take are still social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding touching your face.
Why Your Immune System Needs Vitamin D
Vitamin D is probably most known for its role in calcium and its importance to bone health.
But research is finding more and more that vitamin D has important effects on the immune system .
For example, vitamin D can promote the development of certain proteins, such as cathelicidin and beta defensin 4, that have antimicrobial activity .
Vitamin D Deficiency
For this reason, people who do not get enough sun exposure are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Some other risk factors include obesity, dark skin, and older age .
Vitamin D May Help In Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by an infection from a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis that mainly affects the lungs.
According to a few clinical trials, supplementation with vitamin D may reduce symptoms and improve the treatment of TB .
Overall, however, studies have revealed mixed results. It remains to be seen if vitamin D supplementation has a clinical effect on TB until more research is done .
Vitamin D May Protect Against Respiratory Tract Infections
Respiratory tract infections are a group of infectious diseases that affect the sinuses, throat, airways, or lungs. COVID-19, the disease that is caused by the new coronavirus, also belongs in this group .
It’s unknown if vitamin D supplementation will have the same protective effects against COVID-19.
Can Vitamin D Be Harmful? The Role of ACE2
The ACE2 gene codes for angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (a protein also abbreviated ACE2), a protein that sits across the cell membrane in many tissues, including the lungs. Under normal circumstances, it helps reduce blood pressure by converting angiotensin II (which constricts blood vessels) into angiotensin 1-7 (which relaxes blood vessels) [10, 11].
The virus that causes COVID-19, like some other pathogens in the coronavirus family, hijacks the ACE2 protein to gain entry into the cell. Because of this, researchers are currently investigating medications that target ACE2 as potential treatments for COVID-19, but none have been developed so far [12, 13, 14].
Increasing ACE2 could theoretically make it easier for the coronavirus to hijack the protein and gain entry to the cell. However, we really don’t know at this point if vitamin D could increase the risk in any way at all.
The safest approach is to just make sure you have sufficient levels of vitamin D (30ng/dl) from getting enough sun, rather than going overboard with supplements.
Vitamin D Dosage
Check with your doctor before taking vitamin D supplements, especially if you have other medical conditions. Vitamin D may have serious interactions with your other medications and health conditions.
Generally speaking, most experts recommend that adults get at least 600 IU of vitamin D each day .
Some health professionals recommend 2,000 IU or more a day, though no hard evidence supports this practice.
Vitamin D may help prevent and treat certain types of infection, but there is currently no evidence that vitamin D can help with the new coronavirus.
Many people are deficient in vitamin D, especially those who have limited sun exposure. Those with low vitamin D may need to take supplements to increase their levels.
If your vitamin D levels are low, it probably makes sense to get them to a healthy range ideally with sun and if not supplements so that your immune system is as healthy as possible.
Still, the best protective measures you can take against Coronavirus are social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding touching your face.