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BSI response to study on vitamin D supplementation and acute respiratory infections

16 February 2017

A paper published today in the British Medical Journal reports on a systematic review and meta-analysis on studies assessing whether vitamin D supplementation is effective in preventing acute respiratory infections.  The study concluded that vitamin D supplementation was safe and provided protection against acute respiratory tract infection, with patients who were very vitamin D deficient experiencing the most benefit. In response to this paper, the British Society for Immunology has issued the following statement: 

Professor Catherine Hawrylowicz, British Society for Immunology spokesperson and Professor at King's College London, and Deputy Director of the MRC & Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma said:

“Observational and experimental studies predict that vitamin D supplementation will reduce susceptibility to acute respiratory tract infections, but clinical trials, which vary greatly in design, have not consistently shown benefit.

“This meta-analysis and systematic review is the largest yet performed and is important because it begins to tease out why this might be so. Whilst the effects across the whole population were modest, the authors highlight that giving vitamin D frequently and to individuals who are profoundly vitamin D deficient has a much greater benefit.

“These findings are likely to be particularly important in individuals for whom acute respiratory tract infections are life-threatening, such as those with asthma and COPD, who are frequently profoundly vitamin D deficient. Since the authors conclude that vitamin D is safe, further targeted studies in such ‘at risk’ populations seem highly desirable.”

The full paper that this comment is response to can be found at: Martineau et al. 2017 BMJ 356 i6583