Researchers from Queen Mary University of London say, adding vitamin D to food would significantly reduce deaths. Their study is published in the British Medical Journal.
The team of scientists said, they have reanalysed and pooled the raw data from 25 clinical trials involving about 11,000 patients from 14 countries.
Vitamin D can be acquired from healthy sunlight and fish oil (c) Precision Nutrition
Lead author, Adrian Martineau, clinical professor of respiratory infection and immunity said, their results show a significant but modest benefit for everybody who takes vitamin D daily or weekly, but a more substantial benefit for those who have low levels of it in their bodies.
People with low levels of vitamin D in their bodies are those who do not get outside very much, cover themselves against the sun, or have dark skins which absorb less sunlight. Experts said, it's not easy to get enough vitamin D from food, as it is only available in oily fish and shiitake mushrooms, and not much else.
Regular intake of vitamin D reduced the rate of respiratory infections to half in people with the lowest levels of vitamin D, below 25 nanomoles a litre (nmol/L). It has also cut infections by 10% among those with higher vitamin D levels.
Calculations from the study showed that daily or weekly supplements of vitamin D would mean 3.25 million fewer people in the UK having at least one respiratory infection a year, assuming a population of 65 million.
When you get your daily dose of vitamin D
"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,” said Martineau in a statement.
“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.”
Professor of molecular endocrinology at the University of Birmingham, Martin Hewison, said vitamin D supplementation against respiratory infections was proven.
“This may be particularly important for people in the UK who are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency, particularly in the winter,” he said.
The Department for Health told the Guardian
, “The vast majority of people get the Vitamin D they need through a healthy diet and sun exposure. However, experts do recommend supplements for certain groups of people, and advise everyone to consider taking them in the winter months. Mandatory food fortification is a complex issue, but experts keep evidence under review.”