Opinion: Finding Meaning


A Vitamin and a Mineral

Want to reduce your risk of perishing from the COVID-19 virus? Besides hand-washing, mask-wearing, and social distancing, there is evidence that a vitamin and a mineral may also help. Because this is a relatively new disease we lack conclusive published studies but here’s what I’m doing about these two nutrients.

First, I painted the outside of our home. Working high on a ladder, passers-by kindly reminded me to be careful. Besides the exercise, I’m getting lots of vitamin D-producing sunshine. It’s well established that serum vitamin D (initiated naturally by a healthful amount of sunshine reacting with the cholesterol in your skin) is good for your immune system. In addition, a Northwestern University 10-country study linked vitamin D deficiency to the cytokine storm hyper-immune response found in COVID-19 deaths.

There is wide-spread vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. according to the NIH, especially with older folks. A recent Belgium study suggests that the current health crisis as the intersection of two pandemics: vitamin D deficiency and the novel coronavirus. Opening our beaches, especially to the older, would make a lot of sense.

Vitamin D does other good things according to Harvard Medical School, including reducing the risk of certain cancers, especially prostate but also breast cancer, and building strong bones by mediating the uptake of calcium. The latter will be helpful if I don’t heed the advice to be careful, most frequently from the Beautiful Wife, and fall off the ladder.

Second, I started to clean out my freezer. I once put some Brazil nuts in my freezer with the idea to eat a few each week. Like other things in the freezer, I forgot about them. I like nuts, they’re a rich source of healthful fats, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. The FDA says they also reduce the risk of heart disease. I eat nuts daily, but the Brazil nuts remained forgotten in the freezer.

Recently, I read that selenium deficiency was associated with COVID-19 mortality in China, and though rare in the U.S. insufficiency can happen with older people. Selenium is an essential mineral, meaning you must get it in your diet, and Brazil nuts are the richest source. I recovered the bag and decided to eat a couple each week during the pandemic. Just one Brazil nut meets the daily selenium requirement but excessive selenium is toxic, so I’m careful.

Another reason was I try to give blood every two months but it recently caused me to be borderline anemic. There are lots of reasons for anemia, including most commonly iron deficiency, but a 2006 review of the Women’s Health and Aging Studies associated low serum selenium with anemia among older women. I’m a guy, but I am older and want to give blood, so a safe dose of selenium might help here too.

That’s my local solution to the COVID-19 pandemic: paint the house, clean out the freezer, and get back to giving blood. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip.  He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.”  Email:  skip@lovinglaguna

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