As the COVID-19 situation unfolds, millions of people across the world are stuck indoors as the lockdown continues. Spending most of the time inside means that we may not be getting enough amounts of Vitamin D. The body creates Vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin, which is why health experts are now urging everyone to take Vitamin D supplements.
So, what is Vitamin D and how might it help our health during the coronavirus lockdown?
The Sunshine Vitamin is a fat soluble vitamin that is naturally present in few foods and fortified in other, and also available as a dietary supplement. It is also synthesized in the human body when UV rays from the sun strike the skin.
Vitamin D obtained from these sources is biologically inert and requires two hydroxylations to get activated. The first one takes place in the liver, vitamin D converts to 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], also known as calcidiol. The second occurs in the kidney and forms 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH)2D], also known as calcitriol .
Vitamin D and health
Vitamin D is required for bone health: Increases absorption of calcium and phosphorous in the gut which in turn enables normal bone mineralization. The presence of Vitamin D also stimulates osteoblasts and osteoclasts to make new bone tissue, increasing bone density[1,2].
Its deficiency can cause bones to become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D sufficiency prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis.
Helps with immunity: Studies indicate the link between healthy Vitamin D levels and a strong immune system. A group of immune cells, known as T-cells, are critical for immune defence and are dependent on adequate levels of Vitamin D in the blood. When a T-cell is exposed to a foreign bacteria and/or virus, if Vitamin D is not present, it will remain dormant and unable to attack the bacteria/virus[1,3,4].
Helps relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression: Vitamin D receptors exist in the brain. Studies have shown that Vitamin D increases serotonin levels in the brain, improving mood and a sense of wellbeing.
Helps reduce pain and inflammation: A study has suggested that people suffering moderate to severe pain demonstrated poor Vitamin D status. It has been shown that Vitamin D turns off a signalling mechanism within cells that promote an inflammatory response. People suffering from inflammatory conditions such as arthritis have benefitted from Vitamin D supplementation.
Vitamin D deficiency
Deficiency can occur when:
- Lower than recommended level of intakes over time
- Limited exposure to sunlight
- Kidneys cannot convert 25(OH)D to its active form
- Malabsorption of Vitamin D from the digestive tract
In children, Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, characterised by a failure of bone tissue to properly mineralise, resulting in soft bones and skeletal deformities.
The elderly, people with dark skin, people with inflammatory bowel disease and other conditions causing fat malabsorption, and obese individuals are at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency. Low Vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, cognitive decline, autoimmune disorders and pregnancy complications. It can also lead to osteomalacia, resulting in weak bones[1,19].
Symptoms of bone pain and muscle weakness can indicate inadequate Vitamin D levels, but such symptoms can be subtle and go undetected in the initial stages.
Where can I get Vitamin D during lockdown?
As we stay indoors with reduced exposure to sunlight, we can get requisite amounts of Vitamin D from the following sources:
Very few foods in nature and plants contain Vitamin D like sundried mushrooms. There are also packaged foods like cereal and soy milk which are fortified with Vitamin D[7,8].
The general population of the country lacks the widespread acceptability and availability of these products. Recent evidence also suggests that lack of adequate sun exposure is the most important factor for this global pandemic as exposure to sunlight has reduced drastically, with people being stuck indoors most of the day, if not all day. Hence, this lack of sun exposure and deficient intake makes the Indian population vulnerable to Vitamin D deficiency.
Numerous studies across various regions of the country indicate that approximately 70-90% of the apparently healthy population is Vitamin D deficient[10,11,12,13]. A Vitamin D deficient state has become one of the most prevalent and underdiagnosed medical conditions in the world[1,14].
So, individuals with limited sun exposure need to include good sources of Vitamin D in their diet or take a supplement that delivers Vitamin D as Cholecalciferol to achieve the recommended Vitamin D levels of intake.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommends a daily supplement of 400 I.U./day of Vitamin D for Indians under situations of minimal exposure to sunlight. However, the National Academy of Medicine recommends that up to 5,000 I.U. of Vitamin D/day is safe for most children and adults.
Here are some natural and plant-based supplements, which can help meet your daily requirement of Vitamin D:
Unived Vegan D3 is a high quality and vegan Vitamin D3 supplement derived from the only plant-based vegan source available today, Lichen, and is suspended in one of the healthiest fats on the planet cold pressed extra virgin organic coconut oil. As Vitamin D3 is a fat soluble vitamin, the natural fatty acids in coconut oil aid the transport of Vitamin D3 into the bloodstream for fast and maximum absorption, leading to optimal results.
Vitamin D3 helps you achieve optimum bone mineralisation, strong muscles and better immune, mental, heart and dental health.
Vegan D3 offers pure, unadulterated, non-GMO, natural Vitamin D3 that is free of contaminants and synthetic additives. Each serving of Vegan D3 contains 5000 I.U. of Vitamin D3 as Cholecalciferol. Vegan D3 is 100% natural, vegetarian, and vegan.
As a dietary supplement, adults consume 1 serving 5000 I.U. per day. Vegan D3 can be taken at any time of the day.
Unived’s CalDveg gives your bones the strength and endurance to last through your life featuring algae vegan calcium, plant-based Vitamin C & Vitamin D3, natural Vitamin K2-7, and algae magnesium with trace minerals. CalDveg is 100% natural, safe, vegetarian and vegan calcium supplement.
Each serving of CalDveg contains 500mg of superior calcium that is organic and derived from the potent plant source, marine algae or Algas calcareas, which also contains magnesium and trace minerals. CalDveg includes the essential nutrients of plant-based Vitamin C to aid with collagen formation & vitamin D3 to help the body absorb calcium, and natural K2-7 which plays an important role in the utilisation of calcium and other minerals.
CalDveg is formulated for optimum bone health and healthy bone ageing throughout your adult life. We recommend three capsules per day. You can split the dose by taking one capsule after breakfast, one after lunch and one after dinner for optimal results and better bioavailability.
Unived’s B12+D3 offers a therapeutic dosage of 1500mcg vegan Vitamin B12 (as Methylcobalamin 99% purity), 500mcg of 5-MTHF, and 2500 I.U. plant-based Vitamin D3 (as Cholecalciferol) in each vegan capsule.
We recommend taking one capsule daily, preferably after breakfast.
Unived’s D3+K2 is formulated with plant-based Vitamin D3 (as Cholecalciferol) sourced from the only vegan Vitamin D3 source, Lichen and Vitamin K2 (as Menaquinone-7 (MK7)) derived from fermented chickpeas. Menaquinone-7 (MK7) is a highly bioavailable form of Vitamin K2. Each serving delivers 2500 I.U. of Vitamin D3, 100mcg of Vitamin K2-7 and 125mg of organic USDA certified alfalfa powder. Vitamin D3 and K2-7 provide cardiovascular health & immunity support, facilitate calcium absorption and utilisation, and promote healthy ageing. Unived’s D3+K2 is 100% natural, vegan, and non-GMO.
We recommend taking one capsule daily, preferably after breakfast.
Vitamin D is essential for bone health and it also plays an important role in brain health, cellular health, organ protection, immunity, muscle strength and certain psychological disorders. Yet, Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more prevalent amongst the Indian population and the rest World, and more so during this lockdown period.
Spending most of our time in doors limits sun exposure and our body’s ability to produce its own Vitamin D. Additionally, with very few foods containing Vitamin D naturally, supplementation is the best way to maintain our Vitamin D levels during this lockdown.
Remember to wash your hands, stay at home, and stay safe!
- Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.
- Cranney C, Horsely T, O’Donnell S, Weiler H, Ooi D, Atkinson S, et al. Effectiveness and safety of vitamin D. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 158 prepared by the University of Ottawa Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-02.0021. AHRQ Publication No. 07-E013. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2007. [PubMed abstract]
- Holick MF. Vitamin D. In: Shils ME, Shike M, Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 10th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006.
- Norman AW, Henry HH. Vitamin D. In: Bowman BA, Russell RM, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition, 9th ed. Washington DC: ILSI Press, 2006.
- DeLuca GC, Kimball SM, Kolasinski J, Ramagopalan SV, Ebers GC. Review: The role of Vitamin D in nervous system health and disease. Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 2013;39:458–84. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019.
- Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357:266–8. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
- Biancuzzo RM, Young A, Bibuld D, Cai MH, Winter MR, Klein EK, et al. Fortification of orange juice with Vitamin D2 or Vitamin D3 is as effective as an oral supplement in maintaining Vitamin D status in adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91:1621–6. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
- Vieth R, Carter G. Difficulties with Vitamin D nutrition research: Objective targets of adequacy, and assays for 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2001;55:221–2. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
- Gupta A, Gupta R. Vitamin D deficiency in India: Prevalence, causalities and interventions. Nutrients. 2014;6:729–75. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
- Goswami R, Kochupillai N, Gupta N, Goswami D, Singh N, Dudha A. Presence of 25(OH) D deficiency in a rural North Indian village despite abundant sunshine. J Assoc Physicians India. 2008;56:755–7. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
- Zargar AH, Ahmad S, Masoodi SR, Wani AI, Bashir MI, Laway BA, et al. Vitamin D status in apparently healthy adults in Kashmir Valley of Indian subcontinent. Postgrad Med J. 2007;83:713–6. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
- Harinarayan CV, Ramalakshmi T, Prasad UV, Sudhakar D, Srinivasarao PV, Sarma KV, et al. High prevalence of low dietary calcium, high phytate consumption, and Vitamin D deficiency in healthy South Indians. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85:1062–7. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
- Ben-Shoshan M. Vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency and challenges in developing global Vitamin D fortification and supplementation policy in adults. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2012;82:237–59. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
- Holick MF. Photobiology of vitamin D. In: Feldman D, Pike JW, Glorieux FH, eds. Vitamin D, Second Edition, Volume I. Burlington, MA: Elsevier, 2005.
- Wolpowitz D, Gilchrest BA. The vitamin D questions: how much do you need and how should you get it? J Am Acad Dermatol 2006;54:301-17. [PubMed abstract]
- Holick MF. Vitamin D: the underappreciated D-lightful hormone that is important for skeletal and cellular health. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes 2002;9:87-98.
- Wharton B, Bishop N. Rickets. Lancet 2003;362:1389-400. [PubMed abstract]
- Jones G. Pharmacokinetics of vitamin D toxicity. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:582S-6S. [PubMed abstract]
- Wagner CL, Greer FR; American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatrics 2008;122:1142-1152. [PubMed abstract]
- Picciano MF. Nutrient composition of human milk. Pediatr Clin North Am 2001;48:53-67. [PubMed abstract]
- Webb AR, Kline L, Holick MF. Influence of season and latitude on the cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D3: Exposure to winter sunlight in Boston and Edmonton will not promote vitamin D3 synthesis in human skin. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1988;67:373-8. [PubMed abstract]
- Webb AR, Pilbeam C, Hanafin N, Holick MF. An evaluation of the relative contributions of exposure to sunlight and of diet to the circulating concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in an elderly nursing home population in Boston. Am J Clin Nutr 1990;51:1075-81. [PubMed abstract]
- Pappa HM, Bern E, Kamin D, Grand RJ. Vitamin D status in gastrointestinal and liver disease. Curr Opin Gastroenterol 2008;24:176-83. [PubMed abstract]
- A Report of the Expert Group of the Indian Council of Medical Research. Jamai-Osmania PO, Hyderabad: National Institute of Nutrition, Indian Council of Medical Research, Nutrient Requirements and Recommended Dietary Allowances for Indians. 2009. [Last accessed on 2014 Jul 12]. Available from: http://www.pfndai.com/Draft_RDA-2010.pdf .