Ergocalciferol or Vitamin D always remains under the spotlight. All thanks to its role in bone homeostasis and its effect on calcium absorption of our body. The sunshine vitamin is again getting public attention due to its acclaimed capacities to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection.
Vitamin D receptors: What, Where & Why?
Researches have proved that the cells of our immune system (B cells, T cells, and antigen-presenting cells) bear vitamin D receptors (VDR). Vitamin D receptors are ligand-dependent transcription factors. These make a complex with active vitamin D.
While currently, COVID-19 is incurable, studies have shown us hope for decreasing the severity of the infection. According to a study conducted on 235 patients in Sina Hospital, Tehran, Iran has proved that people with a sufficient amount of vitamin D in their blood faced less clinical severity. The prospective patients had age 18 or more.
Out of all the patients aged more than 40 years with vitamin D sufficiency, only 9.7 % faced death. That is far less than 20% in the case of patients deficient in vitamin D.
Thus, it is a proven fact that vitamin D can save you from the deadly virus. All we need is a sufficient amount of the sunshine vitamin. An adult needs 200 to 400 I.U. (corresponding to 5 to 10 micron) of vitamin D per day. If taken in excess, it can be toxic, but its deficiency can weaken our bones and immune system.
We have limited methods for measuring vitamin D in our diet regarding its sensitivity, rapidity, and simplicity.
But we can take the help of VDRs to synthesize the vitamin D metabolite. We can detect the VDRs and target them to synthesize ergocalciferol. The most commonly used tool for VDR detection nowadays is polyclonal antibodies. And this new idea that vitamin D can save us from COVID infection gave a kick to polyclonal antibody production.
How does vitamin D affect immune health?
Ergocalciferol is a crucial element for the proper functioning of our immune system. Our immune system is the first line of defense of our body. Vitamin D not only maintains our bone but also regulate immune responses.
It has anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties that activate the immune system defenses.
It enhances the functioning of immune cells, including T cells and macrophages. These are soldier cells of the immune system and fight against the pathogens.
A minimal drop of the vitamin in the blood levels is so extreme that it can increase susceptibility to infection, disease, and immune-related disorders.
Vitamin D deficiency will fail the activation of vitamin D receptors. These inactivated VDRs can worsen any respiratory diseases by igniting a wounding response in stellate cells of the lung.
Also, its deficiency can decrease lung functionality.
Best Sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, and our body produces it when it is under direct sunlight. Sunlight turns the cholesterol in our body into vitamin D.
However, half of the population in the world is vitamin D deficient. The reason is that people spend most of their time indoors. So, here are five healthy foods that are high in vitamin D.
This fish is rich in vitamin D. The amount of the vitamin depends on whether the fish is farmed or wild. Wild fish has 25% more vitamin D than farmed breeds.
Apart from salmon, egg yolk is also a good source of vitamin D. While the white portion of the egg is famous for its protein content, the yolk contains fat, vitamins, and minerals.
One typical egg yolk contains 37 I.U. of vitamin D.
However, the vitamin D content of the egg depends upon the vitamin D intake of the chicken.
Mushrooms are the only plant source of the sunshine vitamin. It is because mushrooms also synthesize their own vitamin D. But in the form of vitamin D2.
Dietary sources of vitamin D are very few. Hence, many plant-based products are fortified with vitamin D. The best example of this soy milk and orange juice.
Cereal and oatmeal
Vitamin D fortified cereals and oatmeal are also a good alternative for vitamin D. Though fortified sources cannot substitute natural sources of the vitamin, they are good enough to complete the adequate nutritional needs of vegetarian people.
Yes, vitamin D reduces the risk of getting infected with COVID. It can regulate the response of our immune system towards any pathogen.
But the majority of the population is deficient in Vitamin D due to its limited dietary sources. Hence, it is necessary to incorporate vitamin D rich food in our diet like salmon, mushrooms, and vitamin D fortified food items.