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Vitamin D supplements protect against respiratory tract infection

Daily or weekly vitamin D supplementation without additional bolus doses was found to protect against acute respiratory tract infection. 
Vitamin D

Acute respiratory tract infections are an important cause of morbidity and mortality. Observation studies have suggested associations between low levels of vitamin D and susceptibility to acute respiratory tract infection. Laboratory studies suggest vitamin D induces antimicrobial peptides to respond to viruses and bacteria. A number of randomised control trials (RCTs) have been undertaken investigating whether vitamin D is protective, but they have been inconclusive.

This systematic review and meta-analysis from double blind RCTs investigated the effect of vitamin D supplementation on risk of acute respiratory tract infection. There were 25 RCTs identified from 14 different countries that were judged as high quality. Individual patient data were obtained for 10,933 (96.6%) participants.

Statistical analysis found that vitamin D supplementation significantly reduced the risk of acute respiratory tract infection. Daily or weekly

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Acute respiratory tract infections are an important cause of morbidity and mortality. Observation studies have suggested associations between low levels of vitamin D and susceptibility to acute respiratory tract infection. Laboratory studies suggest vitamin D induces antimicrobial peptides to respond to viruses and bacteria. A number of randomised control trials (RCTs) have been undertaken investigating whether vitamin D is protective, but they have been inconclusive. 


Vitamin D supplements can reduce the risk of acute respiratory tract infection. Picture: iStock

This systematic review and meta-analysis from double blind RCTs investigated the effect of vitamin D supplementation on risk of acute respiratory tract infection. There were 25 RCTs identified from 14 different countries that were judged as high quality. Individual patient data were obtained for 10,933 (96.6%) participants.

Statistical analysis found that vitamin D supplementation significantly reduced the risk of acute respiratory tract infection. Daily or weekly vitamin D supplementation without additional bolus doses was found to protect against acute respiratory tract infection, whereas regimens containing large bolus doses did not. Among those receiving daily or weekly vitamin D, protective effects were strongest in those with profound vitamin D deficiency.  

Vitamin D supplementation was found to be safe. The authors conclude that public health measures such as adding vitamin D to food would be justified particularly for populations where profound vitamin D deficiency is common.


Martineau AR, Jolliffe DA, Hooper RL et al (2017) Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ. 356:i6583. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i6583.

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