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Best Supplements for a Healthy Back to School

This year as everyone heads back to school we need to be thinking about our ADC’s. Vitamin A, D and C are the three vitamins that I would recommend everyone is making sure they get enough of to help make sure that their immune system is functioning optima

2021-08-31 10:19:10

multivitaminvitamin cCOVID-19vitmain Dback to schoolvitamin a


Back to School ADC’s

 

Wait what???... is that a typo? 

Nope…you read it right. 

This year as everyone heads back to school we need to be thinking about our ADC’s. Vitamin A, D and C are the three vitamins that I would recommend everyone is making sure they get enough of to help make sure that their immune system is functioning optimally. While there is no approved treatment for COVID-19 at this time, these supplements have some evidence for a role against COVID-19 and are all needed for a variety of functions related to a healthy immune response. So how are each of these vitamins involved in keeping your immune system ready to fight? Well school is in session. Let’s review them now!

 

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is also known as retinoic acid and is known for its role in playing a role in both immediate (or innate) and prolonged (or adaptive) immune responses(1). Several studies have demonstrated vitamin A’s beneficial and protective effects against viruses such as influenza, norovirus, and hepatitis B(1). It has been noted that vitamin A may be especially important for lung infections as it is crucial for the development of normal lung tissue and repair after an infection(2). There has only been limited research on the role of vitamin A in COVID-19 but this limited data and the known role that vitamin A plays in the immune function make it an important vitamin to consider. One recent study involving COVID-19 positive patients demonstrated that those that were hospitalized had significantly lower vitamin A levels in their blood then those who were recovering at home. In addition those patients in the hospital that were critically ill had lower levels then those who were classified as moderately ill(2). Lower blood levels of vitamin A are also correlated with significantly increased levels of inflammation and with markers of COVID-19 infection(2). 

There are several foods that are high in vitamin A and beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A in the body. These include a variety of orange and green vegetables like carrots, kale and bell peppers and eggs, fish and liver. Some people have difficulty effectively converting beta-carotene into vitamin A in the body so getting a supplement to top up your levels would be something to consider. A multivitamin would be a good way for your to get this top up of vitamin A.

 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin on exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation (sunlight). Because of this levels in your body will fluctuate at different times of the year. Vitamin D is perhaps that one vitamin that has received the most attention and published research in the last 2 years in its potential role with COVID-19. It is well known that vitamin D acts as an immunomodulator(1). This means that while it can help stimulate the immune system, it also prevents overexpression of certain immune and inflammatory mediators. This is important in autoimmune conditions and COVID-19 where part of the issue is that there is an over response of the immune system, causing significant inflammation and harm to the body. There is also significant research showing that vitamin D insufficiency can lead to respiratory tract infections(1). Specific research that has been published about vitamin D and COVID-19 have shown in several countries that lower vitamin D status is associated with higher rates of cases, worsening severity, hospitalizations and death due to COVID-19(3). Several researchers have gone as far as saying that vitamin D can help prevent and fight COVID-19 and while this has not been scientifically proven, the former director of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Dr. Tom Frieden recommended vitamin D to fight COVID-19(1).

While vitamin D will be found in a multivitamin, it is recommended that you take vitamin D as a stand-alone vitamin in addition to your multivitamin to get a sufficient dose. This is especially important during the fall, winter and spring when we have limited sun exposure to boost our levels naturally. It should be noted that Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which can accumulate and become toxic. While it generally takes significant long term dosing to become an issue, you should consult with your health care provider to get your blood levels checked to ensure you are within the optimal range. Vitamin D is hard to get from your diet but it is present in certain foods like oily fish and to a lesser extent meat and is added into things like milk and cereals. 

 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C or ascorbic acid, is well known for its ability to help fight viral infections and Linus Pauling, who won the Nobel Prize, demonstrated Vitamin C’s beneficial effect against the common cold in the 1970’s(1). Along with its antiviral properties, vitamin C has strong antioxidant effects, which help decrease oxidative stress and inflammation. A Cochrane review showed significant reduction in symptoms of the common cold when taking oral vitamin C at a dose of only 200mg per day(1). In 2020, a study was published that demonstrated that the higher the dose of vitamin C the shorter the duration of pneumonia(1). White blood cells have much higher concentrations of vitamin C then is circulating in the blood, however during infection the vitamin C in your immune fighting cells diminishes rapidly. Research on the role of vitamin C in COVID patients is ongoing and results have thus far been limited to mostly high dose IV infusions in hospitalized patients. However given its known role in fighting viral respiratory infections and in combating oxidative stress it would be prudent to consider taking vitamin C to help support your immune system(4).

Your body is unable to make vitamin C and since it is water-soluble it is also not stored in the body. Because of this you need to make sure you are getting a good amount of vitamin C every day. Dietary sources of vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes and really a variety of fruits and vegetables(4). Vitamin C will also be found in your multivitamin but note that the research that indicates its antiviral effects have generally been in much higher doses then you would find in a general diet and multivitamin alone. Taking an additional vitamin C supplement during the school year would be a good idea. Just know that higher doses of vitamin C can cause some stomach upset and diarrhea in some people so be aware and lower your dose if you start to notice those symptoms. 

 

 

1.         Kumar P, Kumar M, Bedi O, Gupta M, Kumar S, Jaiswal G, et al. Role of vitamins and minerals as immunity boosters in COVID-19. Inflammopharmacology. 2021 Jun 10;1–16. 

2.         Tepasse P-R, Vollenberg R, Fobker M, Kabar I, Schmidt H, Meier JA, et al. Vitamin A Plasma Levels in COVID-19 Patients: A Prospective Multicenter Study and Hypothesis. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 24;13(7):2173. 

3.         Wang R, DeGruttola V, Lei Q, Mayer KH, Redline S, Hazra A, et al. The vitamin D for COVID-19 (VIVID) trial: A pragmatic cluster-randomized design. Contemp Clin Trials. 2021 Jan;100:106176. 

4.         Shakoor H, Feehan J, Al Dhaheri AS, Ali HI, Platat C, Ismail LC, et al. Immune-boosting role of vitamins D, C, E, zinc, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids: Could they help against COVID-19? Maturitas. 2021 Jan;143:1–9. 

 

 


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