A new randomized controlled trial led by the QIMR Berghofer research team has found that vitamin D supplements don’t save people from respiratory infections such as flu and colds. This is the biggest study to predict the relation between vitamin D and common respiratory pathogens to this date. While these supplements can lower the symptoms and severity of some infections, they do not provide complete protection from these diseases.
The complete study findings are published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.
The data used in this study was self-reported by nearly 16,000 individuals from Australia. All of them were between 60 years to 84 years of age and were a part of the D-Health Trial by the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.
Every one of these participants was asked to take a vitamin D capsule (60,000IU) as well as a placebo, given randomly for five years. They were asked to complete their yearly medical reports and complete the medical records during the winter months writing details related to their respiratory symptoms.
All these participants who were taking daily vitamin D supplements confirmed having cold and flu signs less often as compared to those who received a placebo or those who didn’t take any supplements. They also experienced short time symptoms that were much less severe than average. Their recovery time was also faster.
This clinical trial shows that taking vitamin D supplements didn’t affect the rate of contracting these respiratory illnesses. People who were taking these supplements were equally infected as the placebo group. However, the only difference was that their recovery time and severity of symptoms were lesser than a placebo group.
These results suggest that taking vitamin D supplements may improve immunity and help in recovery but it doesn’t affect the chances of avoiding the virus in the first place. It is highly unlikely to change the chances of getting infected but its role in disease management is hopeful.
Interestingly, all the participants in this study were old age Australians, most of which were already deficient in vitamin D. There are possibilities that any other population with a better vitamin D profile shows no results as obtained from this current study. But it also suggests that these results could be better among people who are proven vitamin D deficient.
There are mixed opinions on how much vitamin D does the human body needs. The National Health Survey (2011-2012) says that one in four Australians is suffering from vitamin D deficiency. The chances of getting a respiratory infection are also high among Australians as everyone gets at least one infection per year. The rate of infections is highest during colder months while the same months report the lowest vitamin D levels. Because of winter, the exposure to sunlight and the time passed outdoors is minimized.
These results are extremely important because many people relate to treating COVID-19 symptoms with vitamin D supplements. Although all the health experts around the globe are trying to create the best treatment plan for COVID-19, vitamin D supplements don’t play a medicinal role in these patients. Their role is more health-boosting, as they improve immunity while the patient is treated with other medicines suggested by the doctors.