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Clinical trial finds vitamin D does not ward off colds and flu

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A QIMR Berghofer-led randomized controlled trial of vitamin D supplements has found they do not protect most people from developing colds, flus and other acute respiratory infections.
Credit: QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute



The trial, which is the largest of its kind to study the relationship between vitamin D and respiratory infection to date did show, however, that the supplements may shorten the length of infection slightly and help ease the severity of those illnesses.

The study results have been published this week in the scientific journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

The researchers analyzed self-reported health data from 16,000 Australians aged between 60 and 84, who participated in the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute-led D-Health Trial.

The participants were given either a capsule of 60,000 international units of vitamin D, or a placebo, every month for up to five years. They completed annual health reports, and some completed diaries for eight weeks over the winter months in which they recorded their respiratory symptoms.

Lead researcher and head of QIMR Berghofer's Cancer Aetiology and Prevention group, Professor Rachel Neale, said participants who received vitamin D supplements reported they had cold and flu symptoms for slightly less time than participants who did not take the vitamin. They also had severe symptoms for less time and needed less medication to manage their symptoms.

"Our clinical trial showed that people who took vitamin D supplements were infected with colds and flus at the same rate as those who were given placebos. Those who got the supplements did, however on average, report a…
Science X staff
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