By: Prianka Rodé, Registered Dietitian
During the current COVID-19 pandemic, many people are looking for ways to decrease their risk of contracting the virus. Recently, there have been multiple reports on the connection between vitamin D and COVID-19. Vitamin D is a nutrient which is best known for bone health, but it is also involved in keeping the immune system healthy. It can be found in foods such as eggs, fish, mushrooms, and fortified dairy products. Exposure to sunlight also provides vitamin D outside of the diet.
Recent studies have shown that people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 had lower levels of vitamin D. While this sounds like a clear connection between COVID-19 infection and vitamin D levels, it is important to note that these hospitalized patients often had other health issues which may have affected the severity of the virus. Also, the current information on this connection comes from low quality studies. COVID-19 is still relatively new, and there has not been enough time to conduct high quality trials and properly research this connection. There is currently not enough scientific evidence to prove that vitamin D is associated with COVID-19 risk or prevention, and therefore taking high doses of vitamin D to protect yourself or reduce symptoms is not recommended.
However, vitamin D is still an important nutrient, and it is essential to include vitamin D sources in your diet. Supplements may be recommended if you are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. For example, people with low dietary vitamin D intake, darker skin tones, or older adults may be at risk for deficiency. For Canadians, it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D in the winter months because of reduced sun exposure; COVID-19 lockdowns can make this even more of a challenge. If you are concerned about your vitamin D levels and/or intake, speak with your doctor or a Registered Dietitian.
So, what changes can you make to your diet to protect yourself during this time? The Canadian Nutrition Society recommends following a balanced diet based on Canada’s Food Guide. Eating a balanced diet and having a healthy lifestyle helps to strengthen your immune system and fight off infections. Rather than focusing on a specific nutrient or food, it is more beneficial to have various nutritious foods in your diet to promote health and general well-being.