Intended for healthcare professionals


Do vitamin D supplements help prevent respiratory tract infections?

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 15 February 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j456
  1. Mark J Bolland, associate professor1,
  2. Alison Avenell, professor2
  1. 1Department of Medicine, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  2. 2Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK
  1. Correspondence to: A Avenell a.avenell{at}

A clinically useful effect remains uncertain despite hints in a new analysis

Vitamin D supplementation is a hot topic, provoking passionate arguments for and against widespread supplementation. Recently in The BMJ we discussed the evidence, concluding that vitamin D supplements should not be taken by adults to prevent non-musculoskeletal disease.1 Three months later comes a meta-analysis by Martineau and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.i6583), concluding that prevention of acute respiratory tract infection is a “major new indication for vitamin D supplementation.”2 Given the short time between articles, why are the conclusions so different? Is this really a major new development, providing the long sought reliable evidence of benefits of vitamin D on a non-skeletal outcome in the general population? Or is it yet another hypothesis about vitamin D supplementation that needs testing in adequately powered randomised controlled trials?

Eight trial level meta-analyses have examined this topic since 2012, with conflicting findings: three reported benefits and five no consistent …

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