Here’s another reason to top up your daily dose of sunlight. Other than its usual benefits, a September study by the Boston University School of Medicine showed that Vitamin D could reduce Covid-19’s severity among patients. The conclusions were drawn after studying the blood samples of 235 hospitalised coronavirus patients.
The report, published in Plos One medical journal, found that Covid-19 patients with sufficient vitamin D levels had a decreased risk of the adverse clinical outcomes of the coronavirus – including becoming unconscious and hypoxia (when the body is starved for oxygen). The research team also found that patients with vitamin D sufficiency had lower blood levels of an inflammatory marker (C-reactive protein) and higher blood levels of lymphocytes, a type of immune cell that helps fight infection.
“This study provides direct evidence that vitamin D sufficiency can reduce the complications and ultimately death from Covid-19,” said author Michael F Holick, a professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics and molecular medicine.
The sunshine vitamin, as it is often referred to, is synthesised within the body with as little as 15 to 30 minutes of early morning sun exposure.
While the UAE may enjoy year-round sunshine, residents still need to ensure they get their daily dose. A two-year Dubai Healthy Authority study presented in 2017 found that up to 90 per cent of the population is vitamin D deficient.
Dr Maha Osman, specialist family medicine at Medcare Medical Centre, Mirdif Uptown, says there is no proper replacement for getting some sun. “Between 10am and 3pm, being exposed to the sun produces vitamin D in the skin that may last twice as long in the blood as compared with ingested vitamin D,” she says.
Likewise, while most dietary sources of vitamin D do not contain sufficient amounts to satisfy daily requirements, some foods that can aid the process are fortified milk, fortified orange juice, fortified cereal, mackerel, canned sardines, canned salmon, pickled herring, codfish, Swiss cheese and mushrooms.
Vitamin D supplement requirements vary from person to person, but Osman says. “For those under the age of 1, 400 IU per day is standard, whereas in children and adults, dosage can range from 600-800 IU per day.”