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Vitamin D supplements help fight respiratory infections

By Ella Pickover

More than three million people across the UK could stave off infections such as colds or flu every year if they took vitamin D supplements, experts have said.

A new study has found that taking the supplements protects against acute respiratory infections.

Vitamin D supplements have been a hot topic in medical circles in recent years, with some experts arguing that their usefulness remains uncertain.

However, health officials say that vitamin D is vital for bone and muscle health.

Last year Public Health England said that people were generally not getting the recommended 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day from sunlight in winter.

The latest new study, published in The BMJ, suggests that taking vitamin D - also known as the sunshine vitamin - may have benefits beyond bone and muscle health and protects against acute respiratory infections. Results of the study fit with the observation that colds and flu are most common during winter and spring, when levels of vitamin D are at their lowest.

Respiratory tract infections are any infection of the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs and can last up to 30 days.

The common cold is the most widespread respiratory tract infection; others include ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.

At least 70% of the population gets one acute respiratory infection every year and about a quarter of the UK population will visit the GP each year to get treatment. Acute respiratory infections lead to 300,000 hospital admissions and to 35,000 deaths in the UK every year.

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