Covid-19: What role does vitamin D play?

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Sunlight fills the body’s vitamin D stores. This also affects the immune system.

© DjordjeDjurdjevic / iStockphoto

Tue June 30, 2020

Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, severe overweight and high blood pressure increase the risk of a severe Covid 19 course. All these diseases have one thing in common: they are often associated with a low vitamin D level. Researchers at the University of Hohenheim believe that the vitamin could also play a role in the course of an infection with the novel corona virus, since vitamin D regulates the immune system and inflammatory processes in the body.

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Many people, especially older people, have too little vitamin D in their blood. In the case of Covid-19, this could be an indicator of a severe course and a higher death rate. Researchers from the University of Hohenheim, who have evaluated 30 studies on this topic, report on this.

Vitamin D regulates the body’s immune system and the so-called renin-angiotensin system (RAS), which is important for the balance of blood pressure. In the event of an infection, the vitamin ensures that these two systems do not get out of hand. “Since the corona virus affects an important switching point of these control loops, pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory processes are no longer in balance,” explains nutritionist Prof. Dr. Hans-Konrad Biesalski. “The system gets mixed up,” especially if there is a vitamin D deficiency at the same time. “The result could be serious changes in the alveoli that lead to a serious complication of Covid 19 disease, the so-called acute respiratory distress syndrome .

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Check vitamin D levels in case of infection

The scientist therefore strongly recommends checking the vitamin D status and remedying any deficit if you suspect an infection with the coronavirus. This is particularly recommended for people with one of the underlying diseases or for older people. “Vitamin D levels in people’s homes are often devastatingly low. In times of home office, many people spend a long time in closed rooms, which also contributes to poor vitamin D supply,” says Biesalski.

Vitamin D is produced by the body through UV rays. It can also be ingested through food, but only in small quantities. “Oily fish and sun-dried mushrooms are particularly rich in vitamin D. But that is not enough, and in Germany – in contrast to many other countries – food is not enriched,” said Biesalski. However, the doctor does not recommend taking a nutritional supplement on suspicion. “When in doubt, that’s not enough to improve a really bad vitamin D status in the short term.” As a preventative measure, it is advisable to spend a lot of time outdoors, pay attention to nutrition and, if you suspect an infection, ask your family doctor to check the vitamin D level.

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