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This Vitamin Reduces Inflammation, New Research Suggests

You may want to start eating more oily fish.

If you've been following nutrition news for a while, you probably know that while inflammation is a natural, helpful process, chronic inflammation could prompt a host of nasty health consequences. Of course, there are habits you can implement to help keep your inflammation in check, such as adding certain herbs to your diet, cutting back on processed foods, and enjoying regular physical activity. Now, a new study on the cells of COVID-19 patients suggests that vitamin D may play a key role in fighting the dangerous inflammation associated with the disease.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature Immunology by researchers from Purdue University and the National Institutes of Health, looked at cells from the lungs of eight people with the disease, analyzing how the body's immune response was inflaming the cells, as well as how adding vitamin D could affect the process.

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"In broad terms, we found that vitamin D is part of the mechanism that 'switches off' inflammatory functions of these cells, and it does so by regulating the expression of specific genes," the study's co-lead author Behdad Afzali, MD, PhD, told Eat This, Not That! in an interview.

By deactivating these genes in T cells, the vitamin can keep the cells from entering an inflammatory state, Afzali noted. While the vitamin could potentially play a helpful role in protecting against some of the processes that make COVID-19 so dangerous, it's far from a treatment. Afzali recommends "other preventive and effective means of COVID-19 prevention, including vaccines, masks, and social distancing" to protect from the disease.

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Still, it's worth minding your vitamin D intake. Unless you're making a deliberate effort to include the vitamin in your diet, there's a solid chance that you're not getting enough of this vital nutrient. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the recommended daily value of vitamin D for adults is 600 international units (IU), which is equal to 0.015 milligrams of vitamin D per day.

"The reason why vitamin D deficiency is common worldwide is because there are very few sources of vitamin D naturally occurring in the diet," Michael Holick, MD, PhD, author of The Vitamin D Solution: A 3-Step Strategy to Cure Our Most Common Health Problems, told Eat This, Not That!. "These include oily fish such as salmon, which contains about 500-1000 IUs [the accepted measurement for vitamins] in 3.5 ounces, cod liver oil, and mushrooms exposed to sunlight. Some . . . milk is fortified with vitamin D and contains 100 IUs per 8 ounces."

For more reasons to add this vitamin to your diet, check out The Worst Side Effect of Not Getting Enough Vitamin D, Says Science.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more