Scientists call for widespread Vitamin D fortification to fight COVID-19

Scientists call for widespread Vitamin D fortification to fight COVID-19 - We The World
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New research by scientists shows that there is a global prevalence of deficiency of vitamin D levels in COVID-19 patients. Based on the study, scientists are advising governments to fortify daily common foods with the D vitamin to combat against COVID 19.

Levels of vitamin D deficiency have been reported in Europe and Canada. The Guardian reports, half of the UK’s population has vitamin D deficiency, and taking supplements under the government guidance, is not working, according to a group convened by Dr. Gareth Davies, a medical physics researcher.

Among the Middle Eastern and North African countries, there is a greater prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and registers some of the highest rates of hypovitaminosis D worldwide.

In India, even before the pandemic, 80% of its population has been found to have a much lower level of vitamin D, an important micro-nutrient to fight against infections. 

A new study stated in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism shows researchers conducted an observation on 216 COVID-19 patients in a hospital in Spain. They discovered a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and a higher risk of COVID-19.

A further new study has noted that more than 82.2 percent of COVID-19 patients didn’t have adequate levels of the “sunshine vitamin” in their blood.

An insufficient level of vitamin D consequentially paves the way to common bone diseases, such as rickets and osteomalacia. A lifestyle, without exercise, makes our BMI (Body Mass Index) be on the higher side, which indicates a lack of good health.

What do doctors say?

Dr. B Sujeeth Kumar, consultant surgeon at the department of surgical GI and laparoscopic surgery in Apollo Health City says, studies have shown that patients who succumbed to the virus had low levels of vitamin D. 

Working from home has now become a way of life and people are not being so exposed to sunlight, which is the primary source of vitamin D. 

However, there has to be a general awareness that it is essential to have a sufficient amount of this micro-nutrient in the body, as it helps fight infections.

Dr Sujeeth Kumar advices to consult doctor and get vitamin D levels checked.

Dr. Sujeeth explains that “If a person has low levels for a long time, the vitamin D receptors inside the body becomes insensitive. If there is more than 32 nanogram of vitamin D in the body, then calcium absorption and body functions will be better.

However, in most people, the levels range between 15 and 25 nanograms. In order to sensitize the receptors, the doctor may recommend vitamin D injections, as capsules take a longer time to be absorbed in the body.

We still do not understand completely how coronavirus acts in our bodies. Even prestigious institutions like the World Health Organisation has made contradictory statements.

That is why it is better to take all known precautions. Good levels of vitamin D, good sleep, immunity-boosting food will help us remain healthy.”

Dr. Gareth Davies said, “Food fortification would need careful planning to be rolled out effectively, particularly as people are now taking supplements. Picking the right foods to fortify would need to be done carefully”.

Unlike other nutrients, Vitamin D is different because our body is able to make it with the help of the sunshine.

It is best to choose cereals that are low in sugar and high in fiber. Or instead, take whole and unprocessed food to enhance the required nutrient in the body.

Some foods, such as breakfast cereals, cheese, and mushrooms are fortified with vitamin D. Quaker oats, Kellogg’s cornflakes, and chocos (coco pops) are enriched with vitamin D. Poha or Rice Krispies also come on the list.

During this turbulent time, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and rice milk, maybe a good option for getting vitamin D, including mushrooms of various kinds.

There are many milk alternatives available in the market and they are fortified with vitamin D, they contain almost as much vitamin D as cow’s milk.

In our pollution high environment, an awareness of having a healthy diet, exercise, and exposure to sunlight at an average of half an hour should improve the overall immunity of the mass.

What is the condition in India?

India, despite location on the equator, which is geographically abundant in the sunshine, has widespread vitamin D deficiency in the population that is over a billion.

Data published on vitamin D deficiency in India shows, despite disbelief, there is a deficient of this vital nutrient in people ranging from across age-groups and gender.

Fortifying daily consumables with vitamin B has been hailed by health experts as a good strategy to deliver the nutrient to the masses, however, Vitamin D fortification in India is scarce.

For instance, Amul — India’s largest dairy co-operative and retailer has no Vitamin D fortification in its products. The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMMF) which owns and sells Amul is against the synthetic fortification of dairy products.

“We don’t follow this concept. We are more in favor of natural fortification to address vitamin deficiency. The current fortification … is like a medication, which chemically fortifies the milk. Amul is not for synthetic and artificial fortification,” RS Sodhi, Managing Director, GCMMF, told Businessline

It is a fact overcompensation with vitamin D could lead to intoxication.

Last year, India’s National Dairy Development Board of NDDB announced an ambitious milk fortification program which was a collab between the Tata Trust, and the World Bank.

Experts believe fortifying milk in dairy is a cost-effective and efficient strategy to disperse the vitamin in huge masses of people in high-population nations like India.

In Canada, vitamin D fortification in certain designated foods is mandatory and fortification of milk is mandatory in the US.

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