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Vitamin D May Fight Winter Coughs And Colds

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Vitamin D and Caugh

Vitamin D may emerge as an important player in the fight against winter coughs, colds and flu. University of Colorado Denver (UC Denver) School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Children's Hospital Boston have gathered data from a large scale study showing that vitamin D deficiency, especially during winter months, may make us more susceptible to respiratory infections.

The risk of cough, colds and flu is even higher in those with lower vitamin D levels and asthma or emphysema.

Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, UC Denver Division of Emergency Medicine led the vitamin D study, saying that “Individuals with common lung diseases, such as asthma or emphysema, may be particularly susceptible to respiratory infections from vitamin D deficiency,” especially in winter months when sunshine is sparse.

Vitamin D, responsible for strong bones, is also emerging as an important component for a healthy immune system. Vitamin C has been used to prevent colds and flu for decades, yet few studies support the benefits for preventing respiratory diseases such as the common cold.

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The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, looked at 19,000 adults and adolescents through a series of nutritional interviews, measurement of vitamin D levels, and physical exams in most of the participants.

The analysis found that those with the lowest vitamin D levels were 40% more likely to report having a recent respiratory infection when compared to study participants with higher vitamin D levels. Asthma patients seemed particularly susceptible to respiratory infections, having five times the likelihood of infection when vitamin D levels were lowest. COPD patient were twice as likely to have respiratory infection when vitamin D deficiency was noted.

The researchers are not recommending vitamin D as prevention for colds and flu just yet. However, more studies are planned, focusing on children, older adults, and those at high risk for respiratory infection from asthma and COPD to further define whether vitamin D can help us fight winter colds, flu, and respiratory infection.

If further studies show that vitamin D is effective for prevention of respiratory infections, the impact on healthcare, including less frequent trips to the emergency room in a large portion of our population, will be significant.