Do Vitamin D Supplements Really Prevent Cold And Flu Infections?

This study makes a bold claim, but let's look at the wider picture first. R_Szatkowski/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 16 Feb 2017, 17:42

However, before leaping to the nearest pharmacy to ask for vitamin supplements, it’s worth looking at the accompanying editorial in the journal. It points out that within just three months, two studies – this one, and another earlier one – have come to very different conclusions, with one concluding that vitamin D has no effect on disease prevention, with the exception of muscoskeletal diseases.

“Given the short time between articles, why are the conclusions so different?” the editorial reads, adding that the authors of it think that “there are reasons for viewing the headline result cautiously.”

“In absolute terms, the primary result is a reduction from 42% to 40% in the proportion of participants experiencing at least one acute respiratory tract infection,” it notes. This means that taking Vitamin D supplements reduces your risk of getting a cold by 2 percent, which is very minor indeed.

The editorial also points out that the term “acute respiratory tract infection” is loosely defined throughout the 25 trials, meaning that it’s not really clear what Vitamin D supplements are actually having an effect on.

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“Should these results change clinical practice? Probably not,” it concludes. Right now, the supplement hypothesis is just that – a hypothesis – and one that needs plenty more randomized and controlled trials to be confirmed.

So, for now, Vitamin D supplements remain in the “inconclusive” column. Don’t believe the hype just yet.

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