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As the United States experiences a record number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) mortalities, misleading publications have surfaced regarding the physiological impact that vitamin D presents throughout the disease process. Such confusion has forced health enthusiasts to question the natural efficacy of the fat-soluble nutrient in relation to symptoms associated with the deadly virus.

Discovered by professor Elmer McCollum in 1913, the supplement gained popularity as a preventative treatment for skeletal diseases such as osteomalacia and rickets. Its essential benefits are absorbed by the human body as ultraviolet rays warm the skin, activating vitamin D synthesis. Foods that naturally produce the element are rare in the wild. Yet, the United States Department of Agriculture presents salmon, eggs, pork, fortified milk and breakfast cereals as containing trace amounts of vitamin D. For those who are unable to meet the recommended daily dosage with exposure to direct sunlight or nutritional options, over-the-counter supplements are also available for purchase at retail stores.

Insufficient levels of vitamin D are associated with the development of rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults. The former is clinically defined by bone deformities, muscle weakness and extreme calcium loss that hinders human growth and development. Conversely, osteoporosis is a long-term illness that destabilizes the structural integrity of bone tissue. As the density and rigidity of the osseous structure degrades, an increased risk of fall injuries amongst the elderly populace presents as a common sequela. 

A routine treatment for patients diagnosed with rickets includes consuming a diet that is rich in vitamin D and calcium. Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health endorses regular physical exercise and a medication regimen prescribed by a health care provider for those who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

The impact that vitamin D has on COVID-19 was investigated in a study authored by Hans Biesalski in June 2020. Combined with a comorbidity such as hypertension (high blood pressure), vitamin D deficiencies increased one’s likelihood of experiencing severe cardiovascular and respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19. 

Such correlation exists due to the manner in which the nutrient inhibits inflammation. Low levels of serum vitamin D trigger the release of inflammatory chemicals by the Renin-Angiotensin System, or control center for systemic blood pressure within the human body. The physiological chain reaction elevates cardiovascular risk factors for hypertension and chronic heart disease. However, adequate intake of the fat-soluble vitamin mitigated lung tissue damage in patients with Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, a deadly condition that may accompany the Coronavirus.

Vitamin D is an integral component of excellent bone health. Incorporating the mineral into one’s self-care regimen, with the guidance of a health care provider may ensure longevity of skeletal strength and overall wellness. 

1430 EDT – Author: Leanne Gregory, Music/Cinematography: Madinah Slaise

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