"The virus is fragile. It doesn't live outside. UV light fractionates it, kills it, blows it apart. Ventilation and wind blow it away," said Dr. Ryan Cole, CEO of Cole Diagnostics – one of the largest independent laboratories in the state.
"That's science. There is not one study that has shown any super-spreader event to have occurred outside. They have all been indoors with poor ventilation."
Speaking in front of a government body, Cole emphasized the importance of vitamin D during these times. (Related: 'Vitamin D Guide' infographic explains importance of vitamin D for optimal health.)
"The best mask of all is a healthy immune system," he said. "And a healthy immune system does not occur if you don't have (vitamin) D in normal range. Vitamin D is the key to having a healthy immune system."
According to Cole, established world data shows that normal vitamin D levels decrease COVID symptom severity and risk for hospitalization by up to 90 percent. Normal vitamin D levels also decrease rates of colon, breast and thyroid cancers, as well as depression and suicide rates.
"If you are vitamin D deficient, you are susceptible to the common cold, the flu, coronavirus of any sort, bacterial pneumonia," he said.
Cole also called out public health officials for not doing enough to accentuate the importance of vitamin D in the ongoing battle against COVID-19. He noted that 70 percent of the world population and up to 80 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient.
"This should be the public health message from the pulpit of Washington and from the pulpit of every state. If you have healthy immune system, you have a healthy population," he said. "We are not emphasizing that. Give the right message."
Many have been deprived of vitamin D as more people stay indoors during the pandemic because of government-imposed lockdowns. Normally, people get vitamin D by spending time outside. The skin makes it when exposed to the sun.
In the U.K., the National Health Service (NHS) says people should consider taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day if they are spending a lot of time indoors. Scottish and Welsh governments and Northern Ireland's Public Health Agency issued similar advice during lockdowns.
Public Health England recommends vitamin D throughout the year for people who are not often outdoors, for people who live in homecare and for people who always wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outside.
Studies suggest adequate vitamin D levels help to fight common colds and flu. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) says studies on using vitamin D for treating or preventing chest infections showed insufficient evidence to be worthy of recommendation. But experts think that vitamin D may have some broader health benefits during the pandemic to keep people as nutritionally fit as possible.
Some researchers have also suggested that vitamin D deficiency might be linked with poorer outcomes if someone catches coronavirus.
Not a lot of foods naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D, so people need to have regular time outdoors to ensure they get enough of the vitamin. When the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit a person’s skin, processes inside the tissue start making vitamin D for the body to use. But it is important to remember that too much sun exposure can burn the skin and potentially lead to skin cancer.
The sun is the best natural source of vitamin D. Spending even a short time in the sun can provide the body with all of the vitamin D it needs for the day. According to the Vitamin D Council, this could be 15 minutes for a person with light skin and a couple of hours for a person with dark skin. (Related: Every person needs sunlight exposure to create vitamin D, obesity impairs vitamin D absorption.)
Darker-skinned people have more melanin, a compound that protects against skin damage by reducing the amount of UVB light absorbed, so they need more time in sunlight to make the same amount of vitamin D as lighter-skinned people.
Aside from being the key to a healthy immune system, vitamin D is important to have healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium, which is one of the main building blocks of bone. Lack of vitamin D can lead to a bone deformity illness called rickets in children, and a similar bone weakness condition called osteomalacia in adults. Deficiency affects mental health as well.
Although vitamin D supplements are generally considered safe, taking more than the recommended amount every day can be dangerous in the long run. People with certain medical conditions, such as kidney problems, should talk to a healthcare professional before taking vitamin D supplements.
A 2010 study published in JAMA showed that high doses of vitamin D in older women were associated with more falls and fractures.
Taking a supplement that contains too much vitamin D can be toxic in rare cases. It can lead to hypercalcemia, a condition in which too much calcium builds up in the blood, potentially forming deposits in the arteries or soft tissues. It may also predispose women to painful kidney stones.
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