LONDON — Looking for an extra layer of protection for flu season? A new major global study finds vitamin D helps shield against respiratory infections such as colds and influenza, especially in those who are deficient in it.
Researchers at the Queen Mary University of London found that vitamin D has health benefits beyond its effect on muscle and bone, what it is most known for, and could lead the way for new public health policies, such as infusing food with the vitamin.
“The bottom line is that the protective effects of vitamin D supplementation are strongest in those who have the lowest vitamin D levels, and when supplementation is given daily or weekly rather than in more widely spaced doses,” says professor Adrian Martineau from QMUL, a lead researcher in the study, in a university release.
“By demonstrating this new benefit of vitamin D, our study strengthens the case for introducing food fortification to improve vitamin D levels in countries such as the UK where profound vitamin D deficiency is common,” he continues.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, analyzes data from clinical trials which included nearly 11,000 participants from 14 different countries ages 0 to 95. Researchers say that the information did return some conflicting results, showing that vitamin D both helped respiratory infections and had no effect.
“Our analysis of pooled raw data from each of the 10,933 trial participants allowed us to address the thorny question of why vitamin D ‘worked’ in some trials, but not in others,” said Martineau.
Vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of Health, has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including the potential to reduce the risk of colon, prostate, and breast cancers. Other research has shown it may help in the prevention of diabetes, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis.