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COVID-19 and Vitamin D – an overview


06 Apr 2020



As Europe is in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health measures that can reduce the risk of infection and lower the amount of deaths in addition to quarantines are desperately needed.

A recent review1 of observational studies and clinical trials found that vitamin D can strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of respiratory infections, as caused by influenza or also COVID-19, through several different mechanisms.

Next to these immunoregulatory functions, vitamin D plays an essential role in human health, especially in bone health by preventing osteoporosis, but also in the prevention of a number of cancers such as prostate, pancreatic and breast cancer as well as autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and diabetes.2

The primary source of this essential hormone (and other components needed for good health) is UV radiation from moderate sun exposure or artificial tanning devices. The solar ultraviolet radiation that is reaching the surface of the Earth varies with latitude, time of day and season. Around 95% is the longer wavelengths of UVA, with the remaining 5% being UVB. Only the absorption of UVB light absorbed by the skin starts a chemical process in which vitamin D is produced. “The best way to obtain a given dose of vitamin D with minimal carcinogenic risk is through a non-burning exposure in the middle of the day, rather than in the afternoon or morning”, as the authors of another study3 conclude.

Not only during the winter months when the amount of UVB in the sunlight is not enough to maintain sufficient serum vitamin D levels, supplementation and especially artificial tanning devices can be valid alternatives.4 In fact, most indoor tanning equipment emits a similar UVA:UVB ratio as the natural sun with a maximum intensity equaling the midday sun in the Mediterranean. Further, there are constant conditions controlled by trained and certified operators who are also able to provide valuable advice to the consumers following professional standards.

The European Sunlight Association (ESA) is promoting safe, controlled and informed use of sunbeds in compliance with EU legislation. To ensure consumer safety, ESA is working hand in hand with the EU and Member State national authorities towards the implementation and enforcement of mandatory standards across Europe.

For further information, please see our COVID-19 factsheet here:


1 Grant et al. (2020). Evidence that vitamin D supplementation could reduce risk of influenza and COVID-19 infections and deaths.

2 Hoel DG and de Gruijl FR (2018). Sun Exposure Public Health Directives.

3 Grigalavicius M et al. (2016). Daily, seasonal, and latitudinal variations in solar ultraviolet A and B radiation in relation to vitamin D production and risk for skin cancer.

4 de Gruijl FR and Pavel S (2012). The effects of a mid-winter 8-week course of sub-sunburn sunbed exposures on tanning, vitamin D status and colds.


European Sunlight Association a.s.b.l.

Boulevard Saint-Michel 65

1040 Brussels, Belgium