December 2020

COVID-19: What to Tell Patients About Vitamin D

As COVID-19 case counts continue to increase, more experts around the world are recommending people take vitamin D supplements to protect against COVID-19. Some experts are now recommending VERY high doses – 4000-10000 IU daily. It’s important to understand where these recommendations are coming from, and how to counsel patients about supplementation.

As we move into the winter months, both the Swiss and UK governments are now recommending that people take vitamin D supplements. This is due in part to the concern that many people living in colder regions may not maintain adequate vitamin D levels without supplements this season. The Swiss recommend 2000 IU daily, while 400 IU is recommended in the UK. Many studies suggest a potential link between low vitamin D levels and COVID-19 outcomes, leading to a sense of urgency with these recommendations. But there is no strong clinical data to back up this concern.

Starting well before COVID-19 emerged, observational research portrayed vitamin D as the missing link to treat and prevent a long list of conditions. But in 2019, several clinical trials failed to support these promising findings. The problem is, observational research doesn’t prove a cause and effect relationship – it can only suggest a link between two factors. Without well-designed studies, we still cannot confirm a cause and effect relationship between vitamin D and COVID-19.

Tell patients that you’re aware of the growing buzz surrounding vitamin D and other vitamins and minerals. Explain that while the press might be picking up, there still isn’t any solid data backing up many of these claims. For patients who want to take vitamin D supplements, reiterate that 400-1000 IU daily of a USP verified product is likely safe and should result in adequate vitamin D levels for most people. If patients are still concerned, suggest that they get their vitamin D levels checked to make sure they aren’t deficient. But explain that taking extremely high doses of vitamin D isn’t necessary if they already have adequate levels – taking doses greater than 4000 IU daily for long periods can increase the risk of hypercalcemia, which can cause serious health issues.

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