A recent study shows that vitamin D can help people deal with acute respiratory infections. The effect was more significant for those diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency and those experiencing “at least one acute respiratory infection.”

Although results seem promising, researchers caution that the findings should not alter how physicians treat their patients.

Vitamin D could be the key to easing respiratory infections. Image credit: Brenda Davis RD

Vitamin D fights the flu, bronchitis, and similar diseases

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, is a meta-analysis of previous research efforts to systematically understand the benefits of vitamin D use in patients with respiratory infections. Researchers state that respiratory tract infections are one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide, being the cause of 1 out of every ten visits to the emergency departments in the U.S. and 2.65 million deaths occurred in the year 2013.

In the past, studies have noted a lack of 25-hydrovitamin D, the most important compound that metabolizes from vitamin D in patients with respiratory tract infection. This metabolite is essential for supporting the body’s antimicrobial response to bacteria and viruses, which is why it was picked up that vitamin D could be substantial for fending off this type of infections.

To cover a vast deal of results, the research team took into consideration five aggregate data meta-analyses, while each of them comprehended at least 15 medical trials. All of them, except for one, reported consistency in the potential for improvement in the state of health of the patients by using vitamin D.

The data showed that those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lower vitamin D levels perceived a greater benefit from using supplements when compared to those without the condition. Also, it seems that the patient’s age and body type are highly when it comes to how the addition of vitamin D helps the body fight respiratory infections.

Researchers led by Adrian R. Martineau, professor of respiratory infection and immunity from the Queen Mary University of London, took 25 randomized controlled trials of vitamin D supplementation for prevention of respiratory tract infections to find a clear correlation between this type of condition and how vitamin D can help improve it.

They reached out to the principal investigator of each trial to obtain individual participant data (IPD). Each study was analyzed separately to produce an estimate of the treatment effect for that particular set of trials. Then, researchers synthesized all the data to try and find a statistically significant beneficial effect of vitamin D for treating respiratory infections. The trials included 11,000 patients from 14 countries.

Vitamin D: Where to get it

Image credit: iStock Photo / American Daily News, Illinoisnewsnetwork.com

Results show that taking vitamin D daily or weekly is beneficial for improving respiratory infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and even the flu, but the effect is much more notable in patients with low levels of the vitamin within their bodies.

Vitamin D is usually taken from supplements because it is not easily found in food. The most popular sources of edible vitamin D are shiitake mushrooms, oily fish, beef liver, cheese, and fortified foods.

“Vitamin D fortification of foods provides a steady, low-level intake of vitamin D that has virtually eliminated profound vitamin D deficiency in several countries. By demonstrating this new benefit of vitamin D, our study strengthens the case for introducing food fortification to improve vitamin D levels in countries such as the UK where profound vitamin D deficiency is common,” stated Martineau, according to The Guardian.

Source: British Medical Journal