Should I be taking vitamin D supplements to protect me from COVID-19?
- Vitamin D is important to keep bones, teeth and the immune system (the body’s defence against infections) healthy.
- Most of our vitamin D is made in the body by the action of sunlight on the skin, and in countries like the UK, the amount of sunlight in autumn and winter months can be too low to keep vitamin D levels up. Some foods (like egg yolks, margarine, some breakfast cereals, oily fish) also contain vitamin D but not enough to meet our needs without making it in the body through sunlight on the skin.
- During COVID 19, there has been much interest in whether vitamin D can help protect against infection or reduce the severity in those who already infected.
- The current advice is to include vitamin D-containing foods within a healthy balanced diet, to safely expose your skin to sunlight daily and if this is not possible or for those at high risk (including those with obesity) to take a daily supplement of 400IU daily, to remain active and try to maintain a healthy weight, and to follow national guidance to limit the spread of COVID-19.
- A high dose should not be taken without medical advice and supervision. This is because vitamin D is stored in fat tissues in the body and too much accumulating over time can be harmful. Therefore we would advise you to discuss with your GP who can test your level if appropriate as well as advise on the dose to take.
- General advice on Vitamin D and COVID 19 is available on the British Dietetic Association website (link below).
What can I do as a person living with obesity, who struggles to lose weight to help lower my risk of complications if I contract COVID-19? (are there breathing exercises I can do to strengthen my lungs)?
Trying to eat a healthy diet avoiding high sugar drinks and sugar and fat containing snacks and with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will also help. If you have any obesity related diseases such as high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes, then improving blood pressure or glucose levels might help reduce the risk of severe COVID-19. Ultimately weight loss might be needed to reduce the risk, but there is no evidence regarding this yet. No particular breathing exercises are of proven benefit. You might want to try and increase your levels of physical activity as this helps improve your mental health along with your general health.
Further information and resources:
General healthy diet
- Better Health (NHS)
- How Can I Eat Healthier (NHS)
- Guide To Balanced Eating (NHS)
- British Heart Foundation – Healthy Eating Advice
- Weight Loss: Fact Sheet (BDA)
- Dieting Myths Busted (BHF)
- What does a Portion Look Like? (BHF)
- Food Portions (BHF)
specific types of food
- Facts about Fats
- Facts about Sugar
- Facts about Salt
- Facts about Carbohydrates
- Facts about Wholegrains
- Fruit & Vegetables – How to get 5 a day