If you don’t have enough of this in your body, you could be at higher risk for COVID-19

A new study suggests that vitamin D and vitamin E could be helpful in preventing and treating COVID-19.

Research, conducted by a team at Medical University in Lublin, Poland, showed that the coronavirus attacks only one intracellular genetic target, the aryl hydrocarbon receptors(AhRs). 

The hypothesis is that therapies targeting the downregulation of AhRs and IDO1 genes should decrease the severity of the infection. The study found that the active form of vitamin D and tocopherol, a form of vitamin E could play a part in helping with the downregulation of these genes.

Past studies also suggested that vitamin D may be helpful in preventing and treating COVID, and interest in the supplement certainly spiked in past months.

Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said vitamin D is important to building immunity and helps reduce inflammation. However, this is more of a concern for people who are vitamin D deficient

“I’m calling for more attention to avoid vitamin D deficiency,” Manson said. “This doesn’t mean that everyone should run to be screened for vitamin D deficiency or run out to buy supplement pills.”

Still, some doctors are skeptical of the vitamin’s effects. 

“I would discourage anyone from thinking that any pill is going to resolve this problem,” said Dr. Pieter Cohen, an internal medicine physician who practices at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “It’s going to be the meticulous social distancing, hand washing, wearing a mask that going to be the key,” he advised.

Regardless, vitamin D deficiency is something that is easily avoidable, according to Manson. 

“I’m not making a general recommendation for supplements,” she said. “I’m saying: To avoid vitamin D deficiency, it will usually take only being outdoors, getting incidental sun exposure, plus paying attention to the dietary sources of vitamin D.” 

This doesn’t mean you should go sunbathe for hours without sun protection. This means going on more walks [with sunscreen] and eating foods with higher levels of vitamin D. Examples of this include fortified dairy products, fortified cereals, fatty fish, and sun-dried mushrooms.

“The key point is to avoid vitamin D deficiency and you don’t need to take high doses of supplements for that purpose,” Manson said.