Covid-19 and the Vitamin D debate

By Sarah Noone Coronavirus News   |   14th May 2020

Our expert dietitian Sarah Noone on why it may be too early to depend on vitamin D to fight Covid-19.

Vitamin D supplementation has been a hotly debated topic of late as it has been shown to work against certain viruses that are similar to Covid-19.

This suggests that vitamin D may help our bodies fight off Covid-19, but we cannot be entirely confident about this as we know so little about this virus which is literally only months old.

What we do know for certain is that diet and having a healthy lifestyle is important to help support the normal functioning of your immune system.

Vitamin D does have a role to play in supporting the normal functioning of your immune system. Therefore, it is important that we all try to avoid becoming Vitamin D deficient and correct any deficiencies with supplementation if required.

In normal circumstances, sunshine, not food, is where most of your vitamin D comes from.

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It’s common enough in Ireland for people to be Vitmain D deficient and those at risk of this include, older people, those with darker skin tones, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and people who spend very little time outdoors. Also, vegetarians, vegans, smokers and people who have a higher weight.

In normal circumstances, sunshine, not food, is where most of your vitamin D comes from. Vitamin D is found naturally in oily fish, egg yolk, meat and it is added to foods like fortified breakfast cereals, milks and spreads.

However, even a healthy, well-balanced diet, that provides all the other vitamins and nutrients you need, may not provide enough vitamin D if you are not able to get enough sun. During the autumn and winter months when we spend more time indoors and the sun is weaker, many people may require supplementation with vitamin D. Now we are in spring, if you can, you should try to spend some time outdoors in the sunshine (e.g. your garden or balcony). However, if you have to self-isolate, are unable to go outside and or are in one of the at risk groups, you may need to consider a daily supplement to ensure a healthy vitamin D status.

Remember it important to strike a balance between sun exposure and getting enough levels of Vitamin D. Over exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer so its important to protect yourself.

There are currently no population-based recommendations from the Department of Health on blanket supplementation of vitamin D for the Irish adult population.

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Generally, 5 – 10 mcg of vitamin D per day is usually recommended. However, there are currently no population-based recommendations from the Department of Health on blanket supplementation of vitamin D for the Irish adult population. Therefore, supplementation must be considered if required on case by case basis by the patient’s healthcare practitioner and no blanket supplementation guidelines can be made.

More isn’t always better when it comes to a fat-soluble vitamin like vitamin D, as excess levels can build up in our body. It is recommended if you are supplementing to take no more than 25 mcg of vitamin D per day, as taking high doses of vitamin D for long periods of time could weaken your bones.

Other sources of Vitamin D

10-15mins of sunshine exposing 35% of our skin (face, forearms and lower legs) between 11am-3pm = 10mcg of Vitamin D.

Oily fish e.g. 140g salmon/ mackerel= 10-15mcg; small can sardines(80g)= 5-6mcg of Vitamin D.
Meat e.g. chicken or beef (90-100g)= 0.3-0.9mcg of Vitamin D.

One egg = 2mcg of Vitamin D.

Fortified margarines (20g), fortified planet-based milks (200mls), fortified cereals(30g)= 1.5-2.5mcg of Vitamin D.

Please remember that currently in the general population the only effective protection against COVID 19 is social distancing, good cough etiquette and hand washing. We should not dilute this important message.

 

We are here for you

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week. Anyone living with heart disease and stroke who has concerns or questions about the coronavirus can contact the nurse support line on 01 668 5001 or support@irishheart.ie.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s new heart support group is on Facebook. Anyone who lives with heart failure or another heart condition or has a family member living with a heart condition can join here: www.facebook.com/groups/heartsupportnetwork/

The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and 5 heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, see https://irishheart.ie/get-support/.

The Irish Heart Foundation in conjunction with the HSE National Stroke Programme, has launched a new telephone support service for stroke patients who have recently been discharged from hospital. For more information, see here.

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cardiovascular disease coronavirus Covid-19 dietitian healthy diet nutrition supplements ways to live better

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