A new international collaborative study has found that vitamin D supplements can help protect people from acute respiratory infections like the cold and the flu. The findings were the result of a meta-analysis of 25 random controlled trials which included overall around 11,000 participants and were published in The BMJ journal.
Vitamin D is mostly known for its health benefits for bones and muscles, and that we mostly receive vitamin from sunlight. However, Carlos Camargo, the lead author of the study, who is a doctor with the Department of Emergency Medicine found at the Massachusetts General Hospital, together with his colleagues, discovered that vitamin D also helps our body fight various respiratory infections, which can cause millions of deaths every year around the world.
Previous observational studies, which only track participants without involving a specific treatment, revealed that low vitamin D levels were associated with a greater vulnerability to accurate infections of the respiratory systems like the cold and the flu virus.
The results of various clinical trials involving the protective ability of vitamin D were split, as some found benefits while others did not. However, studies involving a meta-analysis of previous trials, and using aggregate data also led to conflicting results.
In order to resolve these types of discrepancies between results, the research team from the Queen Mary University of London, led by Dr. Adrian Martineau, started an individual participant metadata analysis of various trials performed across the world. The new study separated the data from each individual patient in order to produce a higher resolution analysis of all the data from the included previous studies.
The researchers found that daily or weekly vitamin D supplements had the highest efficiency for individuals with significant low-level of vitamin D. More specifically, by taking vitamin D supplements, these patients were able to reduce their risk of acute respiratory infections by half. Overall, all the participants experience several beneficial effects of the vitamin supplements. Occasional high doses did not lead to other major benefits.
The study was made possible by a grant from the National Institute of Health Research in the United Kingdom.
What do you think about the study’s findings? Do you use vitamin supplements?
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