A vitamin D deficiency could make you more likely to catch coronavirus - here’s how to boost your levels

Monday, 12th October 2020, 2:07 pm
Updated Monday, 12th October 2020, 2:07 pm
 A vitamin D deficiency could make you more likely to catch coronavirus - here’s how to boost your levels (Photo: Shutterstock)
A vitamin D deficiency could make you more likely to catch coronavirus - here’s how to boost your levels (Photo: Shutterstock)

A new study has concluded that vitamin D could protect people from coronavirus, with adults deficient of the nutrient appearing more at risk of contracting Covid-19.

A total of 72 per cent of NHS workers surveyed who were lacking in the ‘sunshine vitamin’ also tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies - a sign of previous infection.

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This compared to just 51 per cent for those who had a sufficient amount of vitamin D.

Latest study

The latest study, conducted by the University of Birmingham, tested NHS staff at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, one of the UK hospitals that treated the highest number of Covid-19 patients.

Blood samples from 392 healthcare workers were analysed in a two week period in May, towards the end of the first surge of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Samples were first tested for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies - proteins in the blood that show a person has built an immune response to the infection during previous illness. The samples also underwent testing to establish their levels of vitamin D, known to help boost the immune system and protect against the common cold.

Results showed that staff who were vitamin D deficient were more likely to report symptoms of body aches and pains.

Levels were also lower in staff who reported symptoms of fever, but not for those who had a cough or had suffered shortness of breath.

The study comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock wrongly told the House of Commons last week that a Government-funded trial investigating vitamin D showed it did not “appear to have any impact.”

Previous studies

Researchers from Brussels Free University in Belgium, have claimed giving out vitamin D supplements could be an “inexpensive mitigation strategy.”

In June, they said the risk of men being hospitalised with coronavirus was a fifth higher in those who were deficient in vitamin D.

In July a study published by Tel Aviv University, Israel, looked retrospectively at vitamin D levels in 782 people who tested positive for coronavirus and compared them with healthy people. People with vitamin D deficiency (below 30 ng/ml) were 45 per cent more likely to test positive for the virus, and 95 per cent more likely to be hospitalised.

Academics from the University of Glasgow in May refuted the theory of vitamin D protection, based on their work.

They studied vitamin D levels in 449 people from the UK Biobank who had tested positive for Covid-19. They found vitamin D deficiency was associated with an increased risk in infection, but not after adjustment for ethnicity.

This led the team to conclude that their “findings do not support a potential link between vitamin D concentrations and risk of Covid-19 infection.”

How much vitamin D do I need?

Currently, the NHS recommends people take 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day “to keep your bones and muscles healthy.”

Babies up to the age of one year need 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day.

A microgram is 1,000 times smaller than a milligram (mg). The word microgram is sometimes written with the Greek symbol μ followed by the letter g (μg).

Where is vitamin D found?

Vitamin D is found naturally in a small number of foods.

Sources include:

  • oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel)
  • red meat
  • Liver
  • egg yolks
  • fortified foods (such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals)

Vitamin D supplements

Because of the lockdown, people have been forced to spend more time indoors and have seen less sunlight that normal.

The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that you take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if you:

  • are not often outdoors - for example, if you're frail or housebound
  • are in an institution like a care home
  • usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors
  • have dark skin - for example you have African, African-Caribbean or south Asian heritage