New research has shown that taking Vitamin D may prevent ‘upper respiratory tract infections.’ These include the common cold and bacterial infections. With such conditions common, a simple way to prevent them is well needed. For the elderly, who already require such help, these findings may be a game-changer.
Vitamin D is protective
A review of 25 separate trials compared infection rates with Vitamin D use. In over 10000 patients it was found that those taking regular supplements were less likely to get infections. Exact figures showed that patients were approximately 12% less likely to become infected. In real terms, this means that 33 patients would need treatment to prevent an infection.
The research also showed that time until the first infection was delayed in those taking the drug. This means that as well as being protective overall, Vitamin D delays any inevitable infection.
A role for Vitamin D
Vitamin D is already used widely. Those with bone disease such as osteoporosis, and those taking long-term medications, are the highest users. This generally means the elderly. The elderly and cancer patients are especially susceptible to throat infections, with worsening infections leading to Pneumonia. Pneumonia itself is one of the biggest killers in older age groups. With less infection comes longer life.
With a growing population of elderly, antibiotic resistance and cancer survivors it may be that Vitamin D can play a greater role. More research is needed, but the potential is exciting.
‘Upper respiratory tract’ infections are extremely common. They are usually troublesome but carry little risk. Most infections are viral (that is caused by common bugs such as Rhinovirus, the common cold.) Different viruses affect different age groups, and flares are seen at different times of the year. These viruses are spread through ‘droplets’, often through coughing, direct contact or sharing food.
In some cases, a bacteria may be responsible for an infection. This could happen alone or after a viral infection.
Treatment is usually painkillers and rest, but some infections may require hospital admission. Those with other lung conditions, such as Asthma or COPD (Emphysema and Bronchitis) may require some extra help. Those catching an infection after chemotherapy may need antibiotics as ‘superadded’ infection is more common. In these cases, a patient may need antibiotics and oxygen.
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Sources and Further Reading
- Martineau AR et al, (2017) Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data British Medical Journal 356:i6583 (http://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583)
Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing. All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. An online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice.