A new study has shown that vitamin D can help protect you against colds and flu. This new study, led by the Queen Mary University of London, can have implications for public health.

The study, now available in the journal BMJ, involved studying 11,000 people in 14 countries. The researchers found that the protection from supplementing vitamin D was highest in those with low levels of the vitamin and when it is taken daily or weekly.

The lead researcher Professor Adrian Martineau from the university said, “This major collaborative research effort has yielded the first definitive evidence that vitamin D really does protect against respiratory infections. 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.”

The study shows how beneficial fortifying foods with vitamin D would be. The research team believes that the vitamin boosts levels of antimicrobial peptides in the lungs, offering protection against respiratory infections. These peptides are antibiotic-like substances.

This has been confirmed when the researchers noticed that colds and flu are more common in winter and spring, the same period when vitamin D are lowest. The findings may also explain why the vitamin, which is also known as the sunshine vitamin, protects one against asthma attacks, which are triggered by viruses that attack the respiratory system.

Moreover, the study also shows that providing daily or weekly vitamin D supplements reduced the risk of acute respiratory infection by 50 percent in people with the lowest level of the vitamin or those who only have it below 25 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L). Nevertheless, those with high levels of the vitamin still experienced positive results with the supplementation, which is experiencing a total of 10 percent risk reduction.

The researchers conclude that taking the vitamin offers as good of a protection as flu vaccines. The researchers hope that their investigation could help those who suffer from upper respiratory infections worldwide.

Currently, acute respiratory infections are major contributors to global mortality. Statistics show that one of these infections, pneumonia has caused a total of 2.65 million deaths in 2013 alone.

Providing vitamin D supplementation could help solve this. The vitamin will not cause the public too much.

“The interesting findings of this large study are worthy of serious further debate,” says Hywel Williams, director of the NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programmed. “ This study is yet another example of how the NIHR HTA Programmed reaches the parts that other research funders may not tackle.”

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