Vitamin D supplements cannot protect Australians from colds, the flu, and other respiratory infections, new studies have found.
- The five-year trial was the largest of its kind, involving 16,000 Australians.
- 2,600 participants were asked to keep a daily diary
- The results found some signs that supplements can reduce the length and severity of the disease.
The findings, led by the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, were obtained after a five-year clinical trial of 16,000 Australians between the ages of 60 and 84.
This trial was the largest of its kind to study the relationship between vitamin supplements and respiratory infections.
Each participant was asked to take capsules once a month for 5 years. Half were given vitamin D supplements and the other half were given placebo or sugar tablets.
At the end of each year, participants completed a health survey detailing major illnesses and medical events.
Approximately 2,600 participants were also asked to keep a daily diary during the winter to record general observations of their health, especially if they had cold or flu symptoms.
Vitamin D intake did not prevent people from having respiratory tract infections, but there is some evidence that it reduced the length and severity of the infection, said senior researcher Professor Rachel Neil.
“The important message is that if you’re not deficient in vitamin D, taking vitamin D doesn’t prevent your head from getting a cold or the flu,” says Neil.
“It may reduce its length a bit, but if you’re not yet vitamin D deficient, it’s not really enough to justify taking vitamin D.”
“The more you have, the worse it is”
Professor Neil said the findings did not surprise her.
“There was quite a lot of controversy about vitamin D and how much it is needed for our bloodstream,” she said.
“This suggests that the more it is, the worse it is, but it does indicate that it is not enough to supplement Australia’s entire population on a daily basis.
“It tells us that it is important to be aware of avoiding vitamin D deficiency.
The data is used to inform public policy and clinical care.
Participant Erica French was eager to participate in clinical trials after receiving conflicting advice on vitamin D consumption.
“I was listening to a lot of different information,” she said.
“First of all, I had my doctor say,’No more Sun Erica … put a hat, sunscreen, a cover, and an umbrella on top of you.'”
“On the other hand … the other information you read is that you have to be exposed to some sunlight every day to raise your vitamin D, so I think,” I think. Don’t get this, it’s the way I’m supposed to go? “
She said she remembered being “ill-free” for five years during the trial.
“I remember telling the doctor that I thought I was really healthy,” French said.
“I think it’s good to know that we don’t need to add vitamin D to grains, milk, etc. We have almost enough of it as a country, so by taking extra You may be doing something else, but it doesn’t always help with airway infections.
“I don’t know if it can answer all my questions perfectly … but it helped.”
Just before the coronavirus pandemic occurred worldwide, the laboratory’s five-year trial was completed and nearly two million people have died so far.
Nonetheless, Professor Neil said the results were still relevant, even in times when the immune system did not need to be strengthened.
“We didn’t measure the coronavirus … but we can do some kind of extrapolation,” she said.
“Our findings that the length and severity of infections have decreased slightly indicate that vitamin D probably affects people’s immune system.
“And it may bring some benefits to their immune system, and perhaps some to the coronavirus, if we treat their deficiency in people who are deficient in vitamin D. It means no. “
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