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Insufficient evidence for vitamin D preventing or treating acute respiratory tract infections

Northern Ireland

The Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition (SACN) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) today published their rapid reviews exploring the role of Vitamin D supplementation in reducing the risk of Acute Respiratory Tract Infections (ARTIs) and the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

Last updated: 21 December 2020

Vitamin D is needed to keep bones and muscles healthy. The current UK government advice is that everyone should take a daily 10 microgram vitamin D supplement to protect musculoskeletal health. It has also been suggested that vitamin D could reduce the risk of ARTIs and COVID-19.

Public Health England (PHE) commissioned SACN to examine new evidence on whether vitamin D supplementation could reduce the risk of ARTIs and supported NICE to review emerging evidence on vitamin D and the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

SACN rapid review

SACN’s rapid review assessed evidence on vitamin D and ARTIs that had been published since the last SACN review in 2016. ARTIs refers to any infection of the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs. The review did not look specifically at the effect of vitamin D supplementation on COVID-19 risk. The review concluded that evidence currently does not support vitamin D supplementation to prevent ARTIs in the general UK population. The review reiterates the importance of vitamin D for bone and muscle health.  

Sunlight is the primary source of Vitamin D. That is why with ‘stay at home’ measures in place the UK Government re-issued advice at the beginning of April 2020 that everyone takes a daily vitamin D supplement to mitigate the effects of reduced time outdoors.

NICE rapid evidence summary

PHE also supported NICE to conduct a rapid evidence summary evaluating emerging evidence on vitamin D in relation to COVID-19. The review concluded that there is currently no evidence to support taking vitamin D supplements to reduce the risk or severity of COVID-19.

PHE, SACN and NICE are aware that a systematic review and controlled trials on vitamin D and COVID-19 are underway and will continue to monitor and assess new evidence as it is published.