The Role of Vitamin D in the defence of respiratory infections and COVID-19 | COACH London

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The Role of Vitamin D in the defence of respiratory infections and COVID-19

April 2020

In light of COVID-19, there has been much research undertaken about vitamin D and its important role in priming the body’s defences against respiratory infections and COVID-19. Global data has shown that there is a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates.

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone, most of which is obtained from UVB rays. In the winter, the UK doesn’t get that much sunlight, therefore vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in the UK population and Public Health England (PHE) recommend that everyone supplements with 400IU of vitamin D every day throughout the winter months. Published evidence has shown however, that a dose of 400IU is inadequate to raise blood levels to sufficiency in deficient and vulnerable people such as the elderly.

Vitamin D has many mechanisms by which it reduces the risk of viral infections, including enhancing our cellular immunity, in part by reducing the cytokine storm induced by our own immune system as observed in COVID-19 patients. Our immune system produces both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Vitamin D modulates these cytokines by increasing our anti-inflammatory cytokines and decreases our pro-inflammatory cytokines in response to the infection.

Vitamin D also helps to increase glutathione in the body. If you are not familiar with glutathione, it is the body’s major antioxidant. Vitamin C helps to make glutathione in the body, therefore, if your glutathione levels are already increased via higher vitamin D status, antioxidants are increased, meaning the vitamin C is spared which can help your immune system to produce white blood cells such as lymphocytes and phagocytes to help fight the infection.

As well as supplementing with vitamin D you can also eat foods that are rich in it such as oily fish including sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon and herrings. Egg yolks are also a good source, along with mushrooms which produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, much the same as humans. 

It is always a good idea to get your vitamin D levels checked from time to time, as low vitamin D status can make you more susceptible to diseases and you may feel tired, while high levels can potentially be toxic. At home test kits such as the are now widely available, making this a simple check.

We’re here to help, so if you need any advice with your nutrition please contact Lyndsey Walton, Nutritionist, to organise a consultation on +44 (0) 207 315 4260 or

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