A new study published in Aging Clinical and Experimental Research claims that levels of vitamin D are linked to COVID-19 mortality rates. After studying older populations in Spain, Italy, and Switzerland with low vitamin D levels, the researchers advise that vitamin D may play a protective role for patients with COVID-19, similarly to other acute respiratory infections.
In addition to preventing and reducing severity of other respiratory infections, vitamin D has been known to have a wide variety of other health benefits. In chapter 8 of her book Hormones and Your Health, Dr. Winnifred Cutler reviews the science showing that adequate levels of vitamin D reduce risk of osteoporosis as well as breast and prostate cancer, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. If you want to increase your levels to protect against the coronavirus in addition to these other diseases, here are Dr. Cutler’s tips for getting more vitamin D.
Get More Sunlight
Just fifteen minutes a day of direct sunlight on a large surface area of bare skin can greatly impact your vitamin D levels. You may be going outside less due to the pandemic, but you can still sit in front of a window to absorb more of the vitamin. Even Benjamin Franklin had a daily habit of sitting naked in front of a window for fifteen minutes.
However, you should keep in mind that the darker your skin, the more sunlight exposure you may need, because higher melanin absorbs more ultraviolet B radiation, which generates previtamin D. Therefore, you may need more or less time in the sunlight depending on your skin tone. Very white skin will convert more vitamin d than olive, brown, or black skin.
Choose Sunscreen Smartly
Unfortunately, even sunscreen with a protection factor of 15 absorbs more than 99 percent of UVB, so it inhibits sunlight’s ability to convert into vitamin D. While you may want to apply some sunblock for long days spent in direct sunlight, you also want to make sure your bare skin gets some sunlight during the day.
Although even the elderly with reduced levels of previtamin D3 can still get adequate vitamin D with enough sunlight, you should consider taking a supplement if you don’t think you’re getting enough sun. Dr. Cutler advises that women who don’t get at least 15 minutes of daily sun should take a vitamin D3 supplement of 1,000 IU per day after a meal to enhance absorption.