Discovered at the beginning of the XXth, vitamin D (also called calciferol or vitamin of the sun) is crucial for bone health and plays a major role in the metabolism of calcium in the body. Both a vitamin and a prohormone, calciferol participates in cell differentiation, DNA repair and insulin secretion. It is also a powerful tool against acute viral infections. The fat-soluble vitamin has a positive effect on a number of processes in the organism that can be crucial in times of the pandemic. Unfortunately, few foods provide an appreciable amount of the vitamin. In this case, specialists recommend daily vitamin D supplementation, especially for the elderly.
Vitamin D supplementation: why, for whom and how?
As already mentioned, vitamin D is a prohormone and a fat-soluble vitamin that exists in two forms in your body: D2 of plant origin and D3 of animal origin. Medicine assumes that vitamin D is a preventive against autoimmune diseases, autism, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, neuromuscular diseases, osteoporosis, chronic pain and colds. Do we really need vitamin D supplementation? Here are some of its miraculous health benefits:
- promotes healthy bones and teeth;
- prevents and reduces the risk of osteoporosis;
- limits fractures in the event of a fall;
- prevents certain infections, especially respiratory infections;
- prevents vitamin D deficiency and bone disorders;
- has a beneficial effect on certain cancers, diabetes and autoimmune diseases;
- helps repair DNA in certain genes.
In addition, it regulates the calcium level in the blood by improving the intestinal absorption of this mineral, while minimizing its elimination through the urine. Vitamin D also raises great hopes for a relieving effect on certain diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
What are the main sources of vitamin D?
Vitamin D can be synthesized by the body under the effect of the sun. It is estimated that sun exposure for 15 minutes without sunscreen can provide the required dose of vitamin D. However, the duration of the exposure depends on the type of skin (black, white), the season and the time of day. For your information, to people with darker complexion it takes almost twice the time to synthesize vitamin D compared to people with fair skin. However, during the winter period, the sun is too weak and this may result in vitamin D deficiency.
Besides the sun, certain foods can also provide the body with low-quality vitamin D. It is found in certain fish (salmon, swordfish, eel, bluefin tuna, trout, herring, halibut), in egg yolk, in beef liver and full fat milk. However, the quantity is insufficient to eliminate a deficiency. This is why, in North America, dairy manufacturers systematically add small amounts of vitamin D to milk to prevent diseases linked to vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is generally one of the nutrients that can be stored in fats and in the liver and used in cases of deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency in infants leads to rachitis, or slow growth and motor development, poor bone constitution and insomnia. In adults, this lack results in the appearance of osteomalacia, or bone demineralization accompanied by great nervousness.
Vitamin D deficiency is currently a major problem in many European countries. With each age group, the risk of developing a deficiency increases. And this is explained by the fact that people eat less food rich in D3 or D2 and rarely expose themselves to the sun’s rays. And the older you get, the more the skin becomes less and less able to produce vitamin D under the effect of the sun.
Dosage: what dose of vitamin D should we take?
The dosage of vitamin D is often given in international units (IU) rather than micrograms (µg). However, it is enough to know that a microgram is equivalent to 40 units. According to specialists, people under the age of 50 need a supplement of 400 to 1,000 units of vitamin D and a dietary intake of calcium of 1,200 mg. People over the age of 50, on the other hand, should take at least 600 units of Vitamin D and 1,200 mg of calcium. As for the maximum dose of vitamin D3 and D2 for an adult, it is estimated at 2000 units per day!
Many people wonder whether Vitamin D supplementation can help reduce the risk of contracting the new coronavirus. It is important to note that currently there is no cure for COVID-19. No other preventive measures other than social distance and proper hygiene protect you from the development of this disease.
However, some research shows that healthy vitamin D levels and taking a vitamin D supplement can help keep your immune system healthy and protect you from respiratory diseases in general. But how does vitamin D affect the body’s immune response? How can supplementing with this nutrient help protect against respiratory diseases? It is necessary for the proper functioning of your immune system. This is your body’s first line of defense against infection and disease. This vitamin therefore plays a crucial role in promoting the immune response. It has both anti-inflammatory and regulatory properties and is crucial for the activation of the immune system.
The vitamin is so important for immune system function that low levels are associated with an increased susceptibility to infections and diseases. For example, low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) as well as viral and bacterial respiratory infections. In addition, vitamin D deficiency causes decreased lung function. This can affect your body’s ability to fight respiratory infections.
In conclusion we need to say that Vitamin D is essential for each organism not only for its beneficial effect on the regulation of calcium metabolism and bone mineralization, but also for its effectiveness in strengthening the immune system and the prevention of certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory infections. However, there is currently no evidence that taking a supplement, including vitamin D, reduces the risk of COVID-19 disease due to infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. If you are interested in a vitamin D supplement to improve your overall immune response, contact your doctor for information on the proper dosage.