Evidence does not support taking vitamin D for Covid-19, say health officials

Tablets and capsules
Tablets and capsules (PA Archive)
16:50pm, Mon 29 Jun 2020
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There is “no evidence” to support taking vitamin D supplements to prevent or treat Covid-19, health officials have said.

In response to suggestions that vitamin D could reduce the risk of acute respiratory tract infections and Covid-19, health officials launched a rapid review of evidence.

Officials from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) examined five studies on the novel coronavirus and vitamin D.

They concluded that there is currently no evidence to support taking vitamin D supplements to reduce the risk or severity of Covid-19.

Our rapid evidence summary did not identify sufficient evidence to support the use of vitamin D supplements for the treatment or prevention of Covid-19

Paul Chrisp, director of the Centre for Guidelines at Nice, said: “While there are health benefits associated with vitamin D, our rapid evidence summary did not identify sufficient evidence to support the use of vitamin D supplements for the treatment or prevention of Covid-19.

“We know that the research on this subject is ongoing, and Nice is continuing to monitor new published evidence.”

And experts from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition concluded that current evidence does not support vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections – or infections of the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs – in the general UK population.

But the review stressed the importance of vitamin D for bone and muscle health.

In April, updated guidance on the NHS website urged people to take vitamin D supplements as they spend an increasing amount of time indoors during lockdown.

People were urged to consider taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day to keep their bones and muscles healthy.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England (PHE), said: “With many people spending more time indoors, particularly the more vulnerable groups and those shielding, there is a risk that some people may not be getting all the vitamin D they need from sunlight.

“It’s important they consider taking a daily 10 micrograms vitamin D supplement to help protect bone and muscle health.”

Vitamin D helps maintain calcium and phosphate levels in the body, which helps with the health of bones, teeth and muscles.

PHE said existing evidence suggests that people from an African, African-Caribbean or South Asian background may not get enough vitamin D from sunlight and it is recommended that they consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.

But the Royal Society called for the UK Government to strengthen its vitamin D guidance during the pandemic.

The call comes as a Royal Society review found low levels of the essential nutrient may be a factor in poor Covid-19 outcomes in some groups.

It also said that hospitals should record patients’ vitamin D levels alongside Covid-19 infections and outcomes.

The Royal Society’s review notes that in the UK, older people, people of Black or Asian ethnic origin, and those who are obese are all at increased risk of Vitamin D deficiency, as well as more severe Covid-19.

But it stressed that the scientific evidence “does not prove causation”.

Professor Charles Bangham, chair of immunology at Imperial College London and a member of the group working on the Vitamin D paper, said: “It is possible that higher rates of Vitamin D deficiency could be one reason why people with darker skin are affected more seriously by the disease – but there are a lot of other factors as well so we need to collect this data.

“We’re not telling people to go straight to the pharmacy for Vitamin D. Most people who are healthy and eat a varied diet are unlikely to be deficient – and taking too much Vitamin D can be harmful.

“But we need to remind people – particularly those groups at higher risk of being deficient – of the existing recommendations.”

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