What to Know About Vitamin D and COVID-19

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on January 02, 2023
2 min read

Vitamin D is an important nutrient your body needs to build and keep your bones strong, among other benefits. Sunlight is the main source -- your skin absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet rays and turns them into vitamin D.

But many people are deficient, or don’t get enough. This is especially true if you’re older, don’t eat healthy foods, or have a darker skin tone. And those low levels may raise your risk of severe COVID-19 if infected. Here’s what you need to know.

While vitamin D boosts your immune system and eases inflammation, experts say more research is needed on its antiviral properties.

Several studies indicate that those with low vitamin D levels are at increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and have worse clinical outcomes after infection. 

And while high levels of vitamin D might lower your risk for severe COVID-19 infection, there is no evidence that taking vitamin D supplements will provide protection against infection or improve outcomes in patients with COVID-19.

Not getting enough vitamin D may lead to or worsen these health problems:

All these can raise your risk for severe COVID-19 if infected.

Research shows that obesity and diabetes are linked to low levels of vitamin D. They’re also associated with higher death rates or severe COVID-19 symptoms.

More sunlight and foods rich in vitamin D are the best ways. Try to get 15-20 minutes of sunlight, three days a week. And eat foods like:

  • Oily fish (like salmon or sardines)
  • Red meat
  • Egg yolks
  • Foods with vitamin D added

Supplements are also an option. Ask your doctor how much vitamin D you need before taking them. If you overdo it, you may have symptoms like:

  • Nausea
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Poor appetite
  • Constipation
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Ataxia, a neurological condition that causes you to slur or stumble