Watch: Has the COVID-19 Lockdown Impacted Vitamin D Levels?
The COVID-19 lockdown has meant most of us have spent the better part of 2020 indoors and out of the sun. Add to that the fact that most Indians, despite living in a sunny, tropical country, have low levels of vitamin D. How has the lockdown worsened these levels?
Dr Mithal, endocrinologist and Chairman and Head of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Max Healthcare, is with us to help explain.
“Indians in general, but in particular, urban Indians, and urban office-going Indians have lower than optimum D levels.”Dr Ambrish Mithal
Dr Mithal adds that the levels have worsened in lockdown, but even before, Indians did not have adequate levels of the vitamin.
The best source of Vitamin D remains the sun, asserts Dr Mithal, but Indians display “sun-hating or sun-fearing behaviour” unlike our Western counterparts who are “sun-loving.” So we need to go out in the sun to get the benefit of the sun! As a culture, we also have hang-ups about skin colour and cover ourselves if we do step out - further reducing direct sunlight absorption.
“Because we have darker skin, we were supposed to stay outdoors. Darker skin takes longer to make the requisite amount of vitamin D than pale skin.”Dr Ambrish Mithal
Vitamin D & COVID-19
A recent study from Spain found that of over 200 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, over 80 percent had vitamin D deficiency, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Dr Mithal breaks it down. “Vitamin D plays many roles outside the bone and muscle system. It plays a role in our innate and adaptive immunity. Therefore there have been studies in the past that have shown that for respiratory viral infections having an adequate amount of vitamin D protects you. But it is not a critical factor.”
Talkng about the study Dr Mithal says,
“The proportion of D deficiency the Spanish study found in their COVID-10 patients was actually much higher than what they had in the population. But these D levels did not make any difference to the outcome!”Dr Ambrish Mithal
Dr Mithal said that vitamin D can affectCOVID-19in two ways:
- If you are deficient in vitamin D, your innate immunity, your adaptive immunity will be affected and you have a greater chance of picking up the virus.
- Vitamin D is supposed to be an anti-inflammatoryin high doses.
“So it is thought that if you give high doses of vitamin D to hospitalised patients you will reduce the cytokine storm. But that is not proven yet.”Dr Ambrish Mithal
All About Vitamin D
Let’s back it up. We all know vitamin D is good for bone health, but do we know what it really is?
Firstly, the name vitamin D is a misnomer since it's really a hormone. So how does it work really? “Vitamin D is made in our skin, either under the influence of UV beta rays, or it comes in our diet which is not common in Indians,” says Dr Mithal.
“Vitamin D is the bridge that takes calcium from our gut to our blood and only then it can reach the bones.”Dr Ambrish Mithal
Add to all of this, heightened pollution levels, and the strong sun is not really doing us any favours. So what are some sources of vitamin D? What are the signs of D deficiency? And does low vitamin D levels put you at a higher risk of COVID-19?
Watch the video to find out.
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