Frequently becoming sick from respiratory infections like colds and the flu can be a sign of vitamin D deficiency, research suggests.
Vitamin D is critical to supporting the immune system and fighting off infection.
Taking around 4,000 IU of vitamin D can help to ward off infections, some studies have found.
One recent study found that taking vitamin D supplements could reduce the risk of infection by 40 percent.
Professor Adit Ginde, the study’s first author, said:
“After studying these patients for a year, we found a 40 percent reduction in acute respiratory illness among those who took higher doses of vitamin D.
Vitamin D can improve the immune system’s ability to fight infections because it bolsters the first line of defense of the immune system.”
The conclusions come from a clinical trial of 107 patients in nursing homes.
Half received high doses of vitamin D supplements (up to around 4,000 IU per day) and the other half lower doses (up to 1,000 IU per day).
They were followed for 12 months to observe the number of acute respiratory infections (ARIs) they suffered.
The results showed that higher doses of vitamin D reduced the risk of ARIs by almost half.
Professor Ginde said:
“This is a potentially life-saving discovery.
There is very little in a doctor’s arsenal to battle ARI, especially since most are viral infections where antibiotics don’t work.
But vitamin D seems able to potentially prevent these infections.”
Taking vitamin D supplements has few risks, although the study did find that the higher level was linked to more falls.
Professor Ginde said:
“If our results are confirmed by a larger trial, high dose vitamin D, ideally using daily dosing to minimize fall risk, has the potential for substantial public health benefit through ARI prevention for the large and growing population of long term care residents.”
Other signs of vitamin D deficiency include fatigue and tiredness, back pain, depression, muscle pain and even hair loss.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Ginde et al., 2016).