Summary: Taking Vitamin D supplements can help reduce the risk of acute respiratory tract infections, including the common cold, the flu, bronchitis and pneumonia.
We know taking Vitamin D can help the body absorb calcium and phosphorous, making our bones strong. Now, it looks like Vitamin D can even help prevent catching the common cold.
A study published in the British Medical Journal has concluded that Vitamin D supplements can help prevent acute respiratory tract infections, including the common cold, the flu, bronchitis and pneumonia.
According to the researchers at Queen Mary University of London, the findings “support the introduction of public health measures such as food fortification to improve vitamin D status in settings where profound vitamin D deficiency is common.”
Past studies have shown that Vitamin D could play a role in fighting respiratory tract infections. However, conflicting results have made it difficult to reach a clear conclusion by many researchers.
The researchers in this study, thus, set out to systematically determine the role of Vitamin D in regards to acute respiratory tract infections.
They looked at data from 25 trials of vitamin D supplementation, involving 11,321 participants. The participants ranged from 0 to 95 years old.
Reduction in Acute Respiratory Tract Infections
Through analyzing the data and adjusting for various variables such as age and sex, the researchers found that Vitamin D supplementation resulted in a 12% reduction in the proportion of participants experiencing at least one acute respiratory tract infection. In other words, taking Vitamin D supplements did play a role in reducing the risk of acute respiratory infections.
Based on their data, 33 people would need to take vitamin D supplements to prevent one acute respiratory tract infection. This rate is actually better than flu vaccination, where 40 people would need to be vaccinated to prevent one case of the flu. (It should be noted that the flu is more serious than the common cold.)
3.25 Million Less Cases of Common Cold
To put this in another perspective, the researchers said that if the population of the UK took daily or weekly Vitamin D supplements, up to 3.25 million fewer people would have at least one respiratory infection a year. That’s a lot of people!
There is still significant debate about the significance of this study. At least now, there is systematic evidence that shows taking Vitamin D supplement can help lower the risk of catching colds.
So make sure you drink your milk, and eat a healthy diet to get your Vitamin D intake. You can even just go out in the sun and let your body make its own Vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ 2017; 356 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i6583