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Does Vitamin D Status Affect COVID-19?

Did you know that vitamin D can help keep your bones strong so you can maintain an active lifestyle? Many people in the northern Plains do not receive enough of this vitamin.
Does Vitamin D Status Affect COVID-19?

Sun and landscape

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin and we need it for the function, development and maintenance of healthy bones. In young children, it can help prevent the occurrence of rickets, and in adults, it can help prevent osteomalacia, which is the softening of bones. As you can see, you need vitamin D throughout your life.

Vitamin D has been shown to help with respiratory diseases, and one recent study suggests that vitamin D deficiency is associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19). Vitamin D treatment has been found to help decrease the rate of viral respiratory diseases, but whether vitamin D helps with COVID-19 is still unclear.

Vitamin D is not found naturally in many foods, but countless foods we consume, such as milk and ready-to-eat cereals, are fortified with vitamin D. The average adult needs 15 micrograms of vitamin D daily. This is an equivalent to 2 cups of milk fortified with vitamin D.

Vitamin D can be found naturally in some fish such as salmon, trout and sturgeon. It also can be found in foods that we generally eat or drink, such as eggs and cheese. Getting enough vitamin D can help make sure that your bones are be as strong as they can be.

Vitamin D also is made in your body by ultraviolet (UV) rays. These UV rays come from the sun and your body produces vitamin D. You should aim for 10 to 30 minutes of sunshine every other day to reach the recommended amount of vitamin D.

Getting this amount of sunshine is a challenge for those who live in an area with intense winters. Going outside for 10 to 30 minutes when the weather is very cold is difficult to do. People of color and those with darker skin tones may need more time in the sun.

If you cannot get enough vitamin D from your food or from going outside, you can take a vitamin D supplement. However, you should talk with your doctor and/or a dietitian before taking any sort of supplement.

How about vitamin D and coronavirus? The recent study about COVID-19 and vitamin D studied 489 patients who had their vitamin D level measured. The risk of testing positive for COVID-19 was 1.77 times greater among patients who had a vitamin D deficiency.

This is a statistically significant amount, but we have to recognize that this is one study and many more studies need to be done before broad interventions can be suggested as a treatment.


Hunter Olson,
Dietetic Intern, NDSU Extension



Meltzer, D., Best, T., Zhang, H., Vokes, T., Arora, V., and Solway, J. Association of Vitamin D Status and Other Clinical Characteristics With COVID-19 Test Results. JAMA Netw Open. 2020; 3(9):e2019722. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.19722

Appendix 12. Food Sources of Vitamin D - 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines | Published 2020. Accessed Sept. 9, 2020.

Nair, R., and Maseeh, A. Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(2):118-126. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506

Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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