Vitamin D may help reduce the incidence and severity of viral respiratory tract infections including influenza, according to a new Yale University School of Medicine and Greenwich Hospital study.
To determine if the declining concentrations of vitamin D seen in the fall and winter could be a factor in the seasonal increased prevalence of respiratory viral infections such as the flu, James Sabetta, M.D., and colleagues followed 198 adults during the fall and winter.
Of the 18 participants who maintained high vitamin D levels, only three (16.6 percent) developed viral infections. Of the 180 other participants, 81 (45 percent) developed viral infections. Those with the higher vitamin D levels also experienced a marked reduction in respiratory tract infection symptoms such as nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, fever, chills, fatigue, and general malaise. They also had less days ill.
The lower levels of vitamin D seen in the winter may contribute to the prevalence of influenza. Indoor crowding is commonly thought to contribute to the influenza epidemics seen each winter. However, influenza epidemics do not occur in summer in crowded workplaces or other gatherings, despite the presence of the virus and a multitude of nonimmune people.
Findings have implications for understanding the seasonality of certain infections and higher infection rates among individuals who are predisposed to lower concentrations of vitamin D, such as obese individuals.
Vitamin D, which we get partially from exposure to sunlight, has known benefits:
• Boosts the immune system.
• Decreases high blood pressure.
• Reduces the risk of developing arthritis.
• Combats viral infections.
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