The UK's Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has outlined measures being taken by the country's government after a u-turn on policy that previously dismissed the positive effects of vitamin D on COVID-19.
'...vitamin D can help with broad health and that there is no downside to taking it.'
In a parliamentary session last month he said:
"I have asked the scientists to look once again at the impact of vitamin D on resistance and immunity."
"There has been some updated evidence that has come to light in the past few weeks and I want to ensure that it is fully taken into account."
"I can also tell the hon. Lady that we will be increasing the public messaging around vitamin D to make sure that people get the message that vitamin D can help with broad health and that there is no downside to taking it and therefore people should consider that."
This statement was in stark contrast to previous comments made in which Hancock stated government-led research found vitamin D did 'not appear to have any impact' on alleviating the virus.
Following the statement scientists and MPs heavily criticized Mr Hancock for 'ignoring' the increasing number of studies which show vitamin D is linked with better Covid-19 outcomes.
Health chiefs have long advised that vitamin D supplements should be taken by adults in the UK over the winter months due to the fact there is less sunshine. The NHS updated its guidance this spring to recommend people supplement all year round because lockdowns may cause people to spend more time indoors.
Growing body of evidence from around the world
A number of studies in recent months have added to a growing body of evidence from around the world that suggest the immune-boosting vitamin could offer some level of protection against the virus. One of the most comprehensive so far was that conducted by the University of Cordoba in Spain and published last month in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Other research includes a study by Northwestern University, published in May, found Covid-19 patients with a severe Vitamin D deficiency are twice as likely to experience major complications and die.
A recent study, published earlier this month by University of Birmingham, analysed blood samples from 392 NHS workers at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust. It found that 72% of NHS workers who were lacking vitamin D also tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies, a sign of previous infection. This compared to just 51% for those who had a sufficient amount.
This was backed up by a study published online in July by Tel Aviv University, Israel, who looked retrospectively at vitamin D levels in 782 people who tested positive for coronavirus and compared them with healthy people. It found people with vitamin D deficiency (below 30 ng/ml) were 45% more likely to test positive and 95% more likely to be hospitalised.
Another study by the University of Chicago assessed 500 Americans' vitamin D levels before analysing their risk of catching Covid-19. They found 60% higher rates of Covid-19 among people with low levels of the 'sunshine vitamin'.
Clinical trail from Queen Mary University of London
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London launched a new clinical trial last month to investigate whether taking vitamin D could protect people from COVID-19. This trail is called CORONOVIT and will operate for six months and include over 5000 people. It is designed to assess if a 'test and treat' approach to correct vitamin D deficiency reduces the severity risk of COVID-19 as well as other lung conditions.
Participants will receive their vitamin D tests and supplements to their homes, it will involve a finger prick test which will be sent back via post and processed in a NHS lab. Those with low vitamin D levels will then be sent a 6 month supply of either a 800IU or 3200IU daily supplement.
The research team will then track any incidence of an acute respiratory infection in participants to see if vitamin D supplementation has affected the risk and severity of the infection.
Lead researcher professor Adrian Martineau from Queen Mary University said:
"There is mounting evidence that vitamin D might reduce the risk of respiratory infections, with some recent studies suggesting that people with lower vitamin D levels may be more susceptible to coronavirus."
"Many people in the UK have low vitamin D levels, particularly in the winter and spring, when respiratory infections are most common. Vitamin D deficiency is more common in older people, in people who are overweight, and in Black and Asian people - all of the groups who are at increased risk of becoming very ill with COVID-19."
"The CORONOVIT trial will test whether higher doses of vitamin D might offer protection against winter respiratory infections including COVID-19."
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.