Medical Societies Advise on Vitamin D in Midst of COVID-19

Becky McCall

July 10, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Six medical societies from across the globe are emphasizing the importance of individuals obtaining the daily recommended dose of vitamin D, especially given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on outdoor time.

The statement, "Joint Guidance on Vitamin D in the Era of COVID-19," is supported by the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR), the Endocrine Society, and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), among others.

They felt the need to clarify the recommendations for clinicians. Central to the guidance is the recommendation to directly expose the skin to sunlight for 15-30 minutes per day, while taking care to avoid sunburn.

The statement notes that "Vitamin D is very safe when taken at reasonable dosages and is important for musculoskeletal health. Levels are likely to decline as individuals reduce outside activity (sun exposure) during the pandemic."

It adds, "Most older and younger adults can safely take 400-1000 IU daily to keep vitamin D levels within the optimal range as recommended by [the US] Institute of Medicine guidelines."

The statement adds that the scientific evidence clearly supports the benefits that vitamin D (in combination with calcium intake) plays in building a strong skeleton and preventing bone loss.

Other societies supporting the statement are the European Calcified Tissue Society (ECTS), the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), and the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF).

What Role for Vitamin D in COVID-19?

Over recent months, the role of vitamin D in relation to prevention of COVID-19 has been the subject of intense debate. Now, these societies have joined forces and endorsed evidence-based guidance to clarify the issue around obtaining the daily recommended dosage of vitamin D.

During the pandemic, orders to stay at home meant individuals were likely to spend less time outdoors and have less opportunity to draw their vitamin D directly from sunlight, which is its main source, other than a limited number of foods or as a dietary supplement, the societies explain.

However, they acknowledge that the role of vitamin D in COVID-19 remains unclear.

"The current data do not provide any evidence that vitamin D supplementation will help prevent or treat COVID-19 infection; however, our guidance does not preclude further study of the potential effects of vitamin D on COVID-19," says the joint statement.

Research to date suggests that vitamin D may play a role in enhancing the immune response, and given prior work demonstrating a role for the activated form of vitamin D [1,25(OH)2D] in immune responses, "further research into vitamin D supplementation in COVID-19 disease is warranted," it adds.

"Trials to date have been observational and there have been no randomized controlled trials from which firm conclusions about causal relationships can be drawn. Observational studies suggest associations between low vitamin D concentrations and higher rates of COVID-19 infection."

Medscape Medical News has previously reported on the existing observational data regarding vitamin D in COVID-19.

And a recent rapid evidence review by the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), also reported by Medscape Medical News, failed to find any evidence that vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk, or severity, of COVID-19.

Joint Guidance on Vitamin D in the Era of COVID-19. Published July 9, 2020. Statement

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