Ingredient supplier Lycored surveyed 500 physically active consumers in the US, Australia and New Zealand and 66% reported that they did not think they were getting enough Vitamin D as a result of spending more time indoors because of coronavirus. This concern was particularly high among millennials, with 74% of 25-34 year-olds worried about vitamin D deficiency.
While modern living has made it challenging to get enough vitamin D as more people spend increasing amounts of time indoors and eat fewer vitamin D-rich foods, the pandemic has also put a spotlight on the micronutrient.
“The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on vitamin and supplement markets and one of the most obvious trends has been increased interest in Vitamin D. Our research supports the case that this is largely a result of concern about the effects of spending more time indoors. Clearly, many sun-deprived consumers are looking to supplements, and this demand is likely to increase in the near future, especially in countries entering the winter months,” observed Christiane Lippert, Global Product Manager, Vitamins and Delivery Systems at Lycored, which has its headquarters in Israel.
Putting it to the test
According to social media market researcher MediaMeasurement.com, consumer demand for accessible blood tests is on the rise. When looking at overall social media mentions of blood tests, topics pertaining to dietary allergens was the most popular in their 2019 report. Vitamin levels was the fourth most discussed topic.
The focus on vitamin status has prompted OmegaQuant to launch an at-home vitamin D test. Like its range of omega-3 blood tests, the vitamin D is a sample collection kit that requires a finger stick and a couple drops of blood for analysis.
"Our new vitamin D test works the same way our omega-3 tests do — with a simple finger stick. No blood draw needed. No doctor necessary. No hidden lab fees. And you can collect your sample safely, in the privacy of your own home," said Jason Polreis, CEO, OmegaQuant.
“Vitamin D, like omega-3s, is an elusive nutrient for many, which was OmegaQuant's main motivation behind launching the test — to give people a way to know if their diet is delivering enough. We also know that research is increasingly focusing not just on intake of vitamin D, but also correlating actual blood levels with health outcomes. This is a very important difference, because just taking vitamin D or getting plenty of sunshine will not guarantee your levels are optimal. Only a blood test like ours can guide people toward getting the amount that is right for them,” added Polreis.
The ‘sunshine vitamin’ helps regulate levels of calcium and phosphate, which are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Along with factors such as age and poor diet, a lack of sun exposure is also a key reason for vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D status has been a major player in bone health for decades and in more recent years, research has highlighted the role it likely plays in a wider range of other areas, such as cardiovascular health, obesity, and especially lately, immune function.
“Research published in 2017 showed that taking vitamin D daily could lower the risk of colds, the flu, and respiratory infections by up to 70%. In this study, it was also apparent that those who had low levels of vitamin D seem to benefit the most from supplementation,” said Polreis.
Vitamin D and the ‘Rona
“While there’s no suggestion that Vitamin D can prevent or treat COVID-19, studies have indicated a correlation between Vitamin D levels and reduced risk of adverse clinical effects. There’s also evidence that daily D3 supplementation may help reduce the risk of other acute respiratory infections in some groups. News of studies like this has cut through to consumers and, along with concern about lack of exposure to sunlight, is definitely a factor in the increase in interest,” said Lippert.
Indeed, social media monitoring research has indicated a sharp increase in consumer interest in vitamin D. According to another report by Media Measurement (paywall), mentions of vitamin D in US social media increased by 181% between September 2019 and September 2020, when it was the most mentioned vitamin.
Interest is also high in other countries, perhaps driven by official advice. In the UK, where people are now advised to take 10 micrograms per day, there was a 20% increase in new product launches containing Vitamin D between 2019 and 2020.
“Vitamin D has received a lot of attention lately because of the pandemic for the role it plays a role in fighting bacteria and viruses. According to Cleveland Clinic, vitamin D is thought to have a protective effect on the immune system, although it is not yet known if it could help prevent or treat COVID-19,” said Polreis. “What we do know is that higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death seem to be occurring in those who have lower levels of vitamin D in their system.”
While these associations don't prove that vitamin D deficiency causes increased COVID-19 risk, it does appear to justify doing further research to determine if a cause-effect relationship does in fact exist. According to ClinicalTrials.gov, there are over 60 vitamin D and COVID studies that are either completed or in the works.