Is Vitamin D the Silver Bullet against Coronavirus?
How the Coronavirus infiltrates the human cell is well documented but let me give you a quick brief. The virus gets in through your nose, mouth or eye (wear a mask; don’t touch your face) and then travels through to your lungs to attack the respiratory system.
It then tries to enter the lung cells but the security is tight. Sort of like when you want to enter a disco but you can’t enter on your own (No stags, please). So it attaches itself to a receptor present on the cell surface called the ACE-2 that has the access pass and this is how the virus gains entry. Once inside the cell, it hijacks the cell’s machinery to print multiple copies of itself.
More viruses - not good.
By this logic, you’d feel that lack of ACE-2 would be good for you. No ACE-2. No entry into the cell. No damage.
Seems logical but as is mostly the case in biology, it’s important to look at the whole picture. Let’s look at what ACE-2 does for you.
ACE-2 has a sibling called ACE and together they form a system that regulates blood pressure, among other things. And their balance is key.
Studies have shown that if you have high ACE levels but low levels of ACE-2, your body may suffer from heart failure, kidney disease and serious lung injury.
So, when the virus combines with ACE-2 on the lung cells, it reduces the receptor levels and this lack of ACE-2 may lead to critical lung damage.
This was also shown to occur in the original Coronavirus back in 2002.
Enters ‘Vitamin D’.
Vit-D is not just a vitamin, it’s actually a ‘hormone’. It is responsible for a lot of critical body functions including immunity.
In this specific scenario, Vit-D increases the ACE2 level in case of deficiency. This restores the balance and increases the protection against severe lung damage that may lead to hospitalisation or worse.
Experts who have collected COVID-19 patient data have found a strong correlation between Vit-D deficiency and COVID-19 severity.
Most interesting of them is a study that looked at 780 cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia. Researchers grouped them into patients with Vit-D deficiency and those with sufficient levels. They found that >98% of patients with Vit-D deficiency died while only 4% of those with Vit-D sufficiency lost their lives.
Our skin uses ultraviolet B-rays (UVB) from the sun to produce Vit-D but our body gets worse at naturally producing this with age. So we become Vit-D deficient as we get older.
Also, as we continue to stay indoors, it makes us vulnerable to Vit-D deficiency.
Whether these are just associations or whether Vit-D will play a crucial role in the fight against COVID-19, only time will tell.
In any case, being Vit-D sufficient and getting some sun will do more good than harm.
Nobody wants to look like a roasted turkey.