While it's still being investigated, research already shows there are potentially significant links between levels of vitamin A, D and E and respiratory conditions – and the NHS are now advising that we all take a 10mg vitamin D supplement daily. The website says, "You should take 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D a day between October and early March to keep your bones and muscles healthy."
As for its impact on coronavirus, the NHS adds that while there's currently not enough evidence to support taking it to prevent or treat coronavirus, it is offering free vitamin D supplements for those who are especially vulnerable to the virus and are on the shielding list. This comes after despite initially saying vitamin D has no effect on coronavirus – which has claimed over 1.93 million lives worldwide – Health Secretary Matt Hancock later requested a review into vitamin D's effect on the disease takes place.
One study of 216 COVID 19 patients in a Spanish hospital found that 82% of them were deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D, a hormone which is processed in the kidneys and can be sourced naturally from sunlight, is well known for assisting the body in helping to fight off infections, like the flu or a cold.
As for other types of vitamins, a new study involving 6,115 adults (who were asked to self-report their vitamin intake, along with any respiratory problems) observed 33 cases of respiratory complaints. The researchers noted that higher levels of vitamin A and E were associated with a lower likelihood of reporting any such illnesses, such as chesty coughs, or a long-term condition like asthma or pulmonary disease.
Study researchers, some from Imperial College London, have said their work supports the theory that supplements are "critical" for some, as sourcing the necessary vitamins for good health cannot be achieved through diet alone. They have now recommended that further work be carried out to "assess the implications of the current study in the context of the current coronavirus disease" pandemic.
Experts from Queen Mary University of London are also investigating whether having topped up levels of vitamin D could reduce the severity of coronavirus on the body. Professor Adrian Martineau, lead researcher, said of the ongoing work, "There is mounting evidence that vitamin D might reduce the risk of respiratory infections, with some recent studies suggesting that people with lower vitamin D levels may be more susceptible to coronavirus."
However, as previously noted, all this research is still very much in the early stages – and five studies on COVID and vitamin D, which were previously reviewed by the UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence back in June, concluded there's a lack of evidence to support taking supplements could reduce the risk, or indeed, severity of the disease.
Given we've now transitioned into autumn, Vitamin D (found in sunlight) is going to be harder to come by naturally, says Claire Barnes, a nutritional therapist for Bio-kult. It can also impact on mood, so is key to keep on top of.
"Seasonal Affective Disorder has been associated with low serotonin and low vitamin D levels," says Barnes. "Between October and April in the UK we cannot get adequate amounts of vitamin D from the sun and it is now well known that many of us in the UK are deficient. Vitamin D supplementation during the winter months has been shown to improve mood and is recommended as adequate vitamin D cannot be obtained from food alone."
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