Health experts have called on the Government to introduce a vitamin D policy as a central element of its Living with Covid-19 strategy, the health committee has heard.
The experts, who are members of the Covit-D Consortium, say it will help steer the country on a better course out of the pandemic.
Dr Daniel McCartney, director of human nutrition and dietetics at TU Dublin, said that research shows how vitamin D reduces mortality among people who are diagnosed with coronavirus.
He told the Oireachtas health committee that there is an extensive body of international research showing the protective role of vitamin D against Covid-19.
Very large background studies pooling data from dozens of individual trials have described an approximately 10% reduction in risk of respiratory infection amongst people taking vitamin D supplementsDr Daniel McCartney
He added: “Very large background studies pooling data from dozens of individual trials have described an approximately 10% reduction in risk of respiratory infection amongst people taking vitamin D supplements, and a more than 50% reduction in risk amongst those with low vitamin D levels to begin with, especially if taking supplements daily.
“So there is robust evidence that vitamin D protects against respiratory infections in general.
“Since May 2020, geographic studies have shown that Covid-19 incidence and mortality are higher in countries far from the equator and in countries with confirmed low vitamin D status.
“Furthermore, the population groups who are most likely to be vitamin D deficient are the same groups who have suffered the worst effects of Covid-19.”
Dr McCartney said that from May last year, data shows a direct relationship between low vitamin D status and increased risk of Covid-19 infection, severe disease and death.
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“These studies included work by Professor Faul in Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown which showed much higher ICU admission rates in patients with low vitamin D levels,” he added.
“Are these relationships causal? There are now several studies published showing lower rates of ICU admission, ventilation and death in those given vitamin D during their admission.
“There is also an unpublished public health initiative in Andalucia, Spain, which has demonstrated a remarkable reduction in Covid-19 mortality since vitamin D supplementation of vulnerable older adults started there in mid-November.
“Yet despite the now dozens of positive studies including tens of thousands of participants, there has been no policy change in Ireland to advance what we believe to be an extremely low risk, readily implemented, cheap and potentially highly effective intervention to mitigate this public health crisis.”