Jamaica Observer: Fitz-George Ratteray, Sunday, May 17, 2020 – THERE has been a lot of talk regarding nutrition and COVID-19, expressing connections between proper nutrition, and, specifically, the roles of vitamins D, C, A, and minerals such as zinc in supporting immune system function.

Based on earlier peer-reviewed studies of nutritional factors as well as lifestyles and their impact on the courses of diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome and flu, I have embraced the daily taking of Vitamins D3, C, A, and zinc. Now, as COVID-19 data is being compiled and published, the evidence is supporting many of my early hypotheses.

Before continuing, let me be very clear, there is currently no medical or supplement-based cure for or prevention from SARS-CoV-19 — the virus responsible for COVID-19. There is, however, data indicating complicating factors and markers which may improve recovery.

Vitamin D and COVID-19

Three newly published studies by Trinity College Dublin, Northwestern University in Illinois, and the United Kingdom observed significant correlations between mean vitamin D levels and COVID-19 survival rates.

These COVID-19 vitamin D studies revealed that:

• There is a relationship between patients’ lower vitamin D levels and higher death rates.

• Data from China, Iran, Europe, and the US showed a correlation between vitamin D deficiencies and the cytokine storm — an immune system-related, potentially deadly, lung-damaging COVID-19 complication — which is reported to cause the majority of COVID-19 deaths. Vitamin D tempers the release of white blood cells and can prevent them from releasing damaging levels of cytokines.

• Even the European countries at lower latitudes and with more sunlight (Southern Italy and Spain) had high rates of vitamin D deficiency and the highest rates of COVID-19 deaths.

• More northerly European countries (Sweden, Norway, and Finland), because of their climate, fortify their foods with vitamin D, resulting in higher vitamin D levels and lower death rates.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D does support immune health and will be highly likely to improve your immune function and improve chances of recovering from a COVID-19 infection.

Vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight (specifically UV-B radiation associated with sunburn), which initialises a series of reactions leading to the production of vitamin D3.

Vitamin D deficiency had been more prevalent than we realised in the past (1600s to 1800s). Rickets, which resulted in soft and deformed bending bones, plagued children and adults alike in cities and industrialised northern countries for generations.

To this day, many of us, as we age, suffer from the effects of osteoporosis and its related pains, aches, and fracturing bones.

Beyond bone-related illnesses, researchers have identified additional, serious vitamin D diseases such as many autoimmune diseases; inflammatory bowel disease; obesity; inflammation; several cancers, including breast, prostate, and colon; cognitive disorder, mental issues; insufficient calcium absorption; and more specifically to our point, infections such as urinary tract infection, pneumonia, and others, and compromised immune functions.

How much sunlight do you need?

Ideally, 80 percent of our vitamin D requirement is provided by our skin’s exposure to the sun, and 20 per cent from diet.

If you are living further from the equator, more time in the sun is required for sufficient production of vitamin D, and the darker your complexion the longer exposure is also required, as melanin protects from sun damage but also restricts the UV-B radiation

Recommendations for minimal sun exposure stand at 10 to 30 minutes of midday sun, with head, arms, and legs exposed, several times per week. Some recommend until there is a light pinkening of the skin. This is, as it often is, for Caucasian studies.

Afrogen individuals with varying darker skin tones will have to extend exposure times for best results.

After exposure, follow up with good sun protection. Excessive sun UV-B exposure over time can result in skin cancers such as melanoma and others and premature ageing features.

Although, generally, sunblock is recommended for skin care, it can also prevent Vitamin D production; minimal, controlled non-sunblock exposure is advised.

Vitamin D foods and supplementation

Always consult your medical doctor before taking vitamin D supplements.

It is possible to have excess vitamin D. It is one of four fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and can be stored in the body. Excessive intake can result in vitamin toxicity.

The most general recommended daily dietary vitamin D requirements range from 600 IU (International Units) for ages one to 70 and 800 IU for ages 71 and above.

It is difficult to get excessive vitamin D from foods, even good sources such as:

• oily fish like salmon, sardines, canned tuna, herring;

• egg yolk; and

• plant sources (D2 sources, not as effective as D3) — dark green vegetables, mushrooms, soybeans.

Supplementation may be required based on lifestyle, geography, age, and diet. Cod liver oil, one-a-day vitamin products, or Vitamin D3 supplements are often recommended.

Poor nutrition and its effects have been the number one killer on planet earth for decades. We have been blind to the causality and severity and/or have grown accustomed to the obscenely high death rates and suffering.

COVID-19 is not creating, but is certainly exposing, nutritional weaknesses. Hopefully the awareness will promote better lifestyle choices across groups, regions, and other categories. We must endeavour to grab, from every damage, improvement; from every death, growth; and in every darkness, light. Make this global tragedy be a light for you, guiding you to lifestyle growth and improvements.

  • Fitz-George Rattray is the director of Intekai Academy, which is focused on helping people live a healthy lifestyle through nutrition and weight management. If you are interested in losing weight or living a healthier lifestyle, give them a call at 876-863- 5923, or visit their website at intekaiacademy.org