JUST ten minutes of sunshine a day can make you less vulnerable to coronavirus, a doctor has claimed.
Aussie health expert Dr Rachel Neale said that having low levels of vitamin D, which the skin produces when exposed to sunlight, increases vulnerability to the virus.
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Her advice comes just days after Public Health England urged Brits to take vitamin D supplements during coronavirus lockdown.
Skin cancer researcher Dr Neale claimed vitamin D is essentially in curbing the symptoms of the deadly bug.
"Now, more than ever, is not the time to be vitamin D deficient," Dr Neale told The Australian.
"It would make sense that being vitamin D deficient would increase the risk of having symptomatic Covid-19 and potentially having worse symptoms.
"And that's because vitamin D seems to have important effects on the immune system."
Vitamin D seems to have important effects on the immune system
Last year, Dr Neale and a team of researchers claimed that vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of acute respiratory infections, which is what Covid-19 falls under.
According to their study of 78,000 patients, people with low levels of vitamin D are almost twice as likely as those with high levels of vitamin D of developing acute respiratory infections.
On top of this, they claimed people with vitamin D deficiencies were more likely to be sicker for longer.
Vitamin D is thought to fend off respiratory infections by boosting antibiotic-like substances in the lungs.
Dr Neale revealed that she sits in the sun in Brisbane, Australia, for for five to ten minutes everyday to trigger her body's production of vitamin D.
The doctor does not take vitamin D tablets as she believes time in the sun provides more benefits – but accepts they are useful for people who can't leave their home.
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Just last week, health chiefs issued an update on the Public Health England website saying that during coronavirus lockdown, Brits should take a vitamin D supplement to compensate for the lack of sunshine.
It said: "Consider taking ten micrograms of vitamin D a day to keep your bones and muscles healthy.
"This is because you may not be getting enough vitamin D from sunlight if you’re indoors most of the day.
"You can buy vitamin D supplements at most pharmacies and supermarkets. Do not buy more than you need."
'No sufficient evidence'
Despite this, Public Health England say that there is currently "no evidence" that he 2p-a-pill “sunshine vitamin” reduces the risk of coronavirus.
Commenting on the advice, Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE said: "With the nation staying in to save lives and protect the NHS, many people are spending more time indoors and may not get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight.
"To protect their bone and muscle health, they should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D – there is no sufficient evidence to support recommending vitamin D for reducing the risk of Covid-19."
PHE has previously recommended everyone should take a ten microgram supplement of vitamin D during the autumn and winter months, the Telegraph reports.
What's the recommended daily dose of vitamin D?
Public Health England is recommending Brits to consider taking vitamin D supplements due to the lockdown.
Although they are very safe, taking more than the recommended amount every day can be dangerous in the long run.
Below are the recommended daily doses depending on age:
- Children aged 1-10 shouldn't have more than 50 micrograms a day
- Infants (under 12 months) shouldn't have more than 25 micrograms a day
- Adults shouldn't have more than 100 micrograms a day and if they're taking supplements the recommended amount is 10 micrograms a day
More sunshine in spring and summer meant this was no longer necessary for most people but this has been updated to recommend everyone should continue taking it.
Scientists will soon be investigating whether vitamin D can help coronavirus patients fight coronavirus.
A research team from the University of Granada in Spain is to run a ten-week trial involving 200 Covid-19 patients to establish if taking the "sunshine vitamin" can help fight the illness.
The scientists say a lack of vitamin D in calves is thought to have been the main cause of bovine coronavirus infections in the past.
It makes sense a viral respiratory infection like Covid-19 would be worse if you were vitamin D-deficient
The study aims to investigate whether the “use of vitamin D induces significant improvements of health… as well as preventing health deterioration”.
Dr Jenna Macciochi, of the University of Sussex, said: “If you are deficient in vitamin D, you are three to four times more likely to catch a cold.
“It therefore makes sense a viral respiratory infection like Covid-19 would be worse if you were vitamin D-deficient.”
Vitamin D is vital to help your body absorb calcium as well as strengthening the immune system.
It is found in:
- Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- Fortified foods such as fat spreads and some breakfast cereals
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
However, most people do not get enough.
Studies show around one in five adults are thought to be lacking in the “sunshine vitamin”, but 79 per cent ignore Government prompts to take a supplement.
The body makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight – so those in cooler and less sunny climates, like the UK, have a higher risk of being vitamin D deficient.
People with darker skin need more sunlight than those with pale skin to generate enough vitamin D.
The most obvious places to buy vitamin D tablets and supplements is at pharmacies and supermarkets.
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