A preprint study (a study that has not yet been peer-reviewed) found a link between low vitamin D status and high c-reactive protein, which is a blood test marker for inflammation in the body. Since inflammation is a major factor that determines whether people develop a mild case of COVID-19 or severe symptoms, this information may help doctors reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms.
In recent years, vitamin D has started to get the attention it deserves for its numerous roles in health and vitality. Here are some of the many superpowers of vitamin D, the best sources of vitamin D, and how to take it.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is one of the fat-soluble vitamins that we need to be healthy, along with A, E, and K. It isn’t easy to get from dietary sources, and most people do not consume enough vitamin D from diet alone. In order to prevent rickets in children, food companies started adding vitamin D to foods like cow’s milk in the 1930s.
Your body also produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, which is why it’s sometimes called the sunshine vitamin.
Vitamin D benefits.
Vitamin D is involved in several processes in the body, and more and more research is pointing to the benefits of sufficient vitamin D levels. Having enough vitamin D in your system may reduce your risk of:
- Heart disease. More and more research is showing that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of cardiovascular disease including heart attack, congestive heart failure, arterial disease, stroke, along with the conditions that contribute to heart disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
- Depression. Some depressed patients report alleviation of symptoms after starting vitamin D supplementation
- Multiple sclerosis (MS). A multi-study review found that lower levels of vitamin D were associated with higher risk of MS, as well as more severe symptoms in patients who already have MS
- Flu. A large meta-analysis found that vitamin D protects against colds and flu.
- Bone health. Vitamin D seems to reduce the risk of conditions associated with bone weakness such as osteoporosis and cavities
- Cancer. Vitamin D seems to play a role in the ability of certain cancers to develop and proliferate.
Vitamin D also keeps hundreds of genes in your body working properly.
Vitamin D2 vs vitamin D3: what’s the difference?
There are two forms of vitamin D, which have different sources and different functions in the body:
- Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
Studies show that vitamin D3 is more effective than D2 at raising the vitamin D levels in your body. Also, vitamin D2 may be more unstable than D3, resulting in a shorter shelf life and reduced potency.
Vitamin D2 comes from mostly plant sources like fortified foods and supplements, while vitamin D3 comes from fatty fish, eggs, grass-fed butter, and liver.
The best way to get vitamin D is to create the right conditions so that your body can make its own. Your skin makes vitamin D3 when in contact with UVB sunlight. One study showed that half an hour of sun a couple times a week is all you need. This varies based on your location and time of year.
Of course, too much sun is not recommended because it increases your risk of skin cancer. Find the sweet spot of time that you can spend outside without getting a damaging sunburn.
The relationship between vitamin D and vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 is another fat-soluble vitamin that has its hands in a lot of body processes. In fact, a lot of your body’s proteins remain inactive until vitamin K2 activates them.
Vitamin K2 has a lot of science behind it. A few benefits of K2 include:
- Contributes to bone density
- Prevents calcium plaques from forming in your arteries
- Combats inflammation
- Improves age-related memory trouble
- May even prevent cancer
Vitamin D depends on vitamin K2 to work properly. Vitamins D3 and K2 work together to regulate calcium levels in the body, which is important for bone maintenance and the prevention of calcium plaques in the arteries. Vitamin D3 controls how much calcium is in the bloodstream, and vitamin K2 decides where calcium in the blood is deposited. When everything is working well, calcium in your bloodstream will be deposited in your bone where you need it, and not along your artery walls, which causes hardening and heart disease.
Vitamins D3 and K2 also work in synergy to reduce inflammation, which prevents your cytokines (inflammatory proteins) from going haywire in the presence of injury or an infection like coronavirus. The “cytokine storm” is the inflammation in the lungs that causes the most severe COVID-19 symptoms.
How much vitamin D do you need?
Most people can take 1000–4000 IU of vitamin D to achieve the proper blood levels of vitamin D3. More than 4000 IU of vitamin D3 can cause toxicity symptoms like nausea, weakness, disorientation, and kidney damage. Work with your doctor to find the right dose for you.
The best thing to do would be to make sure to get a little sun every day (not too much) and to look for a combination supplement of vitamin D3 and vitamin K2.