Vitamin D plays a critical role in preventing respiratory infections
Vitamin D could help fight off Covid-19
New TILDA research
3rd April 2020
Researchers from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin have released a crucial report today in response to the COVID 19 pandemic.
The research finds that
, reducing antibiotic use, and boosting the immune system response to infections.
TILDA researchers recommend that adults over 50 should take supplements – not just in winter, but all year round if they don’t get enough sun. Those who are ‘cocooning’ at present should also take supplements.
Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Principal Investigator of TILDA, said:
‘’We have evidence to support a role for Vitamin D in the prevention of chest infections, particularly in older adults who have low levels. In one study Vitamin D reduced the risk of chest infections to half in people who took supplements. Though we do not know specifically of the role of Vitamin D in COVID infections, given its wider implications for improving immune responses and clear evidence for bone and muscle health, those cocooning and other at-risk cohorts should ensure they have an adequate intake of Vitamin D. Cocooning is a necessity but will reduce physical activity. Muscle deconditioning occurs rapidly in these circumstances and Vitamin D will help to maintain muscle health and strength in the current crisis.”
Dr Eamon Laird, Research Fellow in Medical Gerontology and co-author of the report, said:
‘‘These findings show our older adults have high levels of vitamin D deficiency which could have a significant negative impact on their immune response to infection. There is an even larger risk now of deficiency with those cocooning or confined indoors. However, vitamin D deficiency is not inevitable – eating foods such as oily fish, eggs, vitamin D fortified cereals or dairy products and a daily 400 IU (10ug) vitamin D supplement can help avoid deficiency. However, Ireland needs a formal vitamin D food policy/recommendation, which we are still lacking – for instance Finland has such a policy and has virtually eliminated deficiency in their population.”
How much Vitamin D?
During the winter-period at least 10 ug/day (400 IU) from the diet is required (due to the lack of sunlight for vitamin D synthesis). Recent data has shown that the average intakes from diet are significantly below this level and therefore a 10 ug (400 IU) vitamin D supplement maybe be required during the winter. For those who are housebound (due to illness or quarantine for an extended period) an upper supplement of 15-20 ug/day (600- 800 IU) maybe required due to the lack of sunshine exposure. In persons over 70 years, 20-25 ug/day (800-100IU) is recommended.
Vitamin D is a potent immune modifying micronutrient and if vitamin D status is sufficient, it could benefit vulnerable adults in particular those 70+ years and older who are ‘cocooning’ during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Vitamin D sources
Vitamin D sources There are three main sources of vitamin D – sunlight, food and supplements.
Due to Ireland’s far latitude geographic location, vitamin D synthesis by sunlight is only during the months of late March to late September. This is 10-15 minutes exposure to sunlight (before application with sun-protection at a time period between 12-4 pm). However, even during the summer, the amount of vitamin D that can be made is affected by cloud cover, use of skin creams, clothing, obesity and age .
Foods rich in this micronutrient include oily fish (tinned or fresh salmon, mackerel etc.), egg yolks, liver and vitamin D fortified foods such as cereals and dairy products.
Regular consumption of vitamin D rich foods is recommended to help prevent deficiency, particularly in the winter months and those not exposed to sunshine in the summer time.
Which Vitamin D supplements are available to buy in the pharmacy or supermarket?
Vitamin D supplements come in different forms, tablets, capsules, oil drops, sprays.
We stock several brands, all containing Vitamin D in the active from. Solgar, Terra Nova, BetterYou.
See our online store
We also stock prescription only vitamin D in much higher doses. I would recommend 1000iu daily for any adult who has not had a blood test to check their levels.