Vitamin D tablets may protect against colds and flu

New research claims the supplements can help fight acute respiratory infections

A new study has found that taking vitamin D supplements protects against acute respiratory infections. File photograph: Charlotte Ball/PA Wire

More than three million people in the UK could stave off infections such as colds or flu every year if everyone took Vitamin D supplements, experts have said.

A new study has found that taking the supplements protects against acute respiratory infections.

Vitamin D supplements have been a hot topic in medical circles in recent years, with some experts arguing that their usefulness remains uncertain.

However, health officials say that vitamin D is vital for bone and muscle health.


Last year, Public Health England said that people were generally not getting the recommended 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day during winter.

The latest new study, published in The BMJ, suggests that taking vitamin D - also known as the sunshine vitamin - may have benefits beyond bone and muscle health and protects against acute respiratory infections.

The results fit with the observation that colds and flu are most common during winter and spring, when levels of vitamin D are at their lowest.

Respiratory tract infections are any infection of the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs. They can last up to 30 days.

The common cold is the most widespread respiratory tract infection. Others include ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.

At least 70 per cent of the UK’s population gets at least one acute respiratory infection every year.

And about one-quarter of the UK population will visit the GP each year to get treatment for the infections.

Acute respiratory infections lead to 300,000 hospital admissions and 35,000 deaths across the UK every year.

Clinical trials

The new research, led by academics from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), analysed data from almost 11,000 participants aged up to 95, who took part in 25 clinical trials conducted in 14 countries, including the UK.

The study concluded that supplements can help prevent acute respiratory tract infections, particularly among those who are deficient in vitamin D.

After adjustments for other potentially influential factors, the researchers found that vitamin D supplementation cut the proportion of participants experiencing at least one acute respiratory tract infection by 12 per cent.

Lead researcher Prof Adrian Martineau, from QMUL, said: “Assuming a UK population of 65 million, and that 70 per cent have at least one acute respiratory infection each year, then daily or weekly vitamin D supplements will mean 3.25 million fewer people would get at least one acute respiratory infection a year.”