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Vitamin D & Covid-19 is there a link?

Vitamin D helps in fighting Covid-19, but taking it does not bring down mortality, say experts.

Published: 17th September 2020 08:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th September 2020 08:24 AM   |  A+A-

vitamin D

vitamin D

Express News Service

HYDERABAD:  Vitamin D, a micro-nutrient that nearly 80 percent of Indian population is deficient in, plays a vital role in vital body functions. Not having sufficient levels of vitamin D can make your bones weaker, cause body aches and decrease your ability to fight infections. In fact, its deficiency has been linked to depression, too. But, how big a role does this nutrient play in fighting Covid-19?

“There is an indirect link between vitamin D levels and Covid-19. In many studies, it has been found that persons who succumbed to the virus had low levels of vitamin D. So, having a good level of this micro-nutrient in the body is necessary at this time, when people are mostly working from home. Staying indoors, we are not exposing ourselves to sunlight, which is the primary source of this vitamin.

Even before the pandemic, more than 80 percent of the population in India have been found deficient in vitamin D, which plays an important role in fighting infections.That is why, it is better to consult a doctor, and get vitamin D levels checked,” says Dr B Sujeeth Kumar, consultant surgeon at department of surgical GI and laparoscopic surgery in Apollo Health City.

How can this vitamin help in fighting Covid-19? Dr KK Aggarwal, president of HCFI and editor-in-chief at Medtalks, explains: “Vitamin D is an immuno-modulator. Therefore, it helps in reducing cytokine crisis. It also upgrades the ACE2 receptors, the ones that Covid-19 virus downgrades. That is how, it reduces lung inflammation.

So, vitamin D is essential in treatment of Covid-19, but we cannot say that taking the vitamin can bring down mortality. Covid-19 treatment is multi-pronged — vitamin D is as important as vitamin C or anti-virals or steroids. Irrespective of Covid-19, human beings should maintain the requisite levels of vitamin D i.e. 2,000 units per day. It helps us to fight any infection that our body might suffer from.”  Echoing his thoughts, Dr Praveen Koppula, critical & intensive care specialist at Basavatarkam Indo American Cancer Hospital and Research Institute, says: “Vitamin D is important to fight all infections, just not Covid-19. Most Indians are deficient in this micro-nutrient either due to our skin tone or rapid urbanisation. We are not going out in the sun in the hours when we can manufacture this nutrient.

Even globally, the level of vitamin D has been persistently low till we could measure it. It is a costly process and today, you have to shell out around Rs 1500 to get the levels checked. If the levels are good, we have better protection against viral and bacterial diseases. However, we cannot say that if a person has low vitamin D, she has a higher chance of getting sicker.” It is necessary that we consult a doctor while getting vitamin D levels checked. Says Dr Sujeeth,

“If a person has low levels for a long time, the vitamin D receptors inside the body becomes insensitive. If there is more than 32 nanogram of vitamin D in the body, then calcium absorption and body functions will be better. However, in most people, the levels range between 15 and 25 nanogram. In order to sensitise the receptors, the doctor may recommend vitamin D injections, as capsules take a longer time to be absorbed in the body. We still do not understand completely how coronavirus acts in our body. Even prestigious institutions like the World Health Organisation has made contradictory statements. That is why, it is better to take all known precautions. Good levels of vitamin D, good sleep, immunity-boosting food will help us remain healthy.”

Signs of low Vitamin D

  • Fatigue
  • Weak bones
  • Headache
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle pain

Vitamin D is made with the help of UV B rays of sunlight. In a city environment, pollution does not allow most of the rays to reach human beings. For a fair-skinned person, half-an-hour exposure to sunlight is enough to manufacture the requisite amount. It’s a myth that we will make more of this vitamin if we sit in sunlight longer. On the contrary, too much exposure can destabilise the vitamin-D already formed. For dark-skinned persons, 45-minute exposure to sunlight is enough.

— Kakoli Mukherjee  kakoli_mukherjee@newindianexpress.com  @KakoliMukherje2


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