Vitamin D intake does not show protection against COVID-19

Vitamin D intake may be beneficial to health but this may not translate into a protective effect against disease. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Vitamin D has many health benefits such as building strong bones and boosting one’s immune system. Two new studies report that vitamin D supplementation does not offer protection against acute respiratory infections or SARS-COV-2 infection.

Despite the disappointing results, the researchers plan to continue to follow the study participants to see if there are any additional health outcomes from vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D is best known for its role in promoting strong bones by ensuring the body absorbs calcium properly. However, researchers also believe vitamin D helps boost a person’s immunity and may provide protection against diseases such as diabetes and asthma.

In addition, previous studies have shown that vitamin D can help protect the body from respiratory tract infections. There is also research being conducted on the link between vitamin D deficiency and a greater chance of developing COVID-19 Trusted Source. Now, two new clinical studies published recently in the journal The BMJTrusted Source report that vitamin D supplementation does not help reduce acute respiratory infections or infections by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Two vitamin D studies The first clinical study was conducted in the United Kingdom and was conducted by a research team from Queen Mary University of London. Researchers enrolled 6,200 people aged 16 and over who were not currently taking vitamin D supplements. Following a blood analysis of their vitamin D levels, the researchers administered either a low or high dose of vitamin D to the study participants.

After six months of follow-up, the scientists found at least one acute respiratory tract infection of any cause occurred in 5.7% of the low-dose vitamin D supplement group and 5% in the higher-dose group. Additionally, 3.6% of participants in the low-dose vitamin D group and 3% in the higher-dose group developed COVID-19, compared to 2.6% of participants not offered vitamin D supplementation.

The second study was conducted by a team of researchers from Oslo University Hospital in Norway. We are trying to prove that vitamin D can actually prevent COVID-19 and other respiratory tract infections,” said principal investigator Dr. Arne Søraas at the Department of Microbiology at Oslo University Hospital told Medical News Today.

This study focuses on the use of cod liver oil supplements to prevent acute respiratory infections and COVID-19. Cod liver oil contains high amounts of vitamin D, vitamin A, and omega-3 fatty acids. Dr. Søraas said he also led the Trusted Source Norwegian Cohort study in which scientists followed 200,000 Norwegians through the epidemic.

There we observed that users of cod liver oil are less likely to be infected with COVID-19,” he said. “Cod liver oil is a widely used supplement in Norway.” Dr. Søraas and his team gave cod liver oil or a placebo to about 34,600 adults who were not currently taking vitamin D supplements. After taking cod liver oil or placebo for a median of 164 days, 1.31% of cod liver oil takers developed COVID-19, compared to 1.32% of placebo takers.

The cod liver oil group also had a higher percentage of those with serious COVID-19 — 0.70% versus 0.58% in the placebo group. Additionally, the research team did not see a reduction in the incidence of acute respiratory tract infections in those taking cod liver oil compared to those taking a placebo. No protective effect against COVID-19

Dr. Søraas said the findings surprised him and his research team. “We wouldn’t have set up a project of that magnitude if we didn’t really believe that we would find that vitamin D could prevent COVID-19,” he added. We will now follow all participants for at least two years and examine self-reported health outcomes, as well as health outcomes from the Norwegian national registry, to identify any long-term health effects of our intervention,” Dr. Søraas continued.

Cod liver oil increased vitamin D and omega-3 levels in the study – no surprise, of course – and the study was a great opportunity to study rare side effects, as well as other possible effects. All 35,000 cod liver oil participants code is also part of the Norwegian Corona Cohort where we focus a lot on long-standing COVID-19,” he added.

Vitamin D intake does not show protection against COVID-19

MNT also spoke with Dr. Jimmy Johannes, a pulmonologist and critical care medicine specialist at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center in Long Beach, CA, about these two studies. He said he was not surprised by the results of this study. Previous studies evaluating vitamin D supplementation on the prevention of acute infections have had mixed results. [I] think if there is any effect, it will be small,” he said.

When asked about the next steps he would like to see for this research, Dr. Johannes said: “If you’re really looking for an effect, you probably need a larger, better-controlled study to find any effect. Having said that, [if] we think there is an effect [and] it’s going to be small, [it] therefore [raises] the question, is this effect clinically important? And should we spend the expense to do clinical trials like this that will would it be too expensive to do well-controlled clinical trials to look for this kind of effect?” he concluded.

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