Could one way to lessen your risk of getting critically ill from the coronavirus be sitting in your medicine cabinet?
According to Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the answer could be “yes.”
The commonplace item that he believes can help reduce risk in the midst of the pandemic is vitamin D.
Frieden, who served as CDC director from 2009 to 2017, is now president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, a firm that works to prevent pandemics and lessen their impacts worldwide.
“There are many crackpot claims about miracle cures floating around, but the science supports the possibility — although not the proof — that Vitamin D may strengthen the immune system, particularly of people whose Vitamin D levels are low,” he wrote in a Monday Op-Ed for Fox News.
“Vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of respiratory infection, regulates cytokine production and can limit the risk of other viruses such as influenza,” Frieden added.
“A respiratory infection can result in cytokine storms — a vicious cycle in which our inflammatory cells damage organs throughout the body — which increase mortality for those with COVID-19. Adequate Vitamin D may potentially provide some modest protection for vulnerable populations. This is especially important for people who are Vitamin D deficient — and, surprisingly, that might include more than 40 percent of US adults.”
Why might vitamin D be helpful as Americans try to protect themselves?
“There is evidence of seasonality in some respiratory illnesses, including influenza and tuberculosis,” Frieden wrote.
“A leading hypothesis is that seasonality is due to the reduction in Vitamin D because of decreased exposure to sunlight in winter months.”
Now, is vitamin D a silver bullet?
Certainly not, Frieden said.
First of all, Frieden reminded readers that it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
“Too much Vitamin D can cause nausea and vomiting, weakness, and frequent urination, and lead to bone pain and kidney stones,” he wrote.
So, what should someone do to get that boost to their immune system?
Frieden has several suggestions.
“For now, go outside and get some sun – but make sure you follow social distancing guidelines to avoid close contact with other people, and don’t go out if you’re ill or can’t go out safely. Taking a walk will also help you get physical activity and alleviate cabin fever,” he wrote.
“Eat healthy foods that contain or are supplemented with Vitamin D. Take a daily multivitamin supplement (but don’t double the daily dose just because you’re worried).”
“Taking a multivitamin that includes Vitamin D, or a Vitamin D supplement, probably can’t hurt,” he noted, “and it might help.”
“As we continue to work to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, anything we can do to strengthen our resistance is a step in the right direction,” he concluded.
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