Health officials have said there is “no evidence” to suggest that vitamin D supplements can prevent or treat Covid-19.
In May, research from Ireland and the US found that coronavirus patients with high vitamin D levels are more likely to survive the disease, leading to calls for an increase in supplementation.
A number of unsubstantiated reports claiming that “mega doses” of vitamin D can stave off the virus have also appeared online during the pandemic.
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But the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which examined five studies on vitamin D, have since concluded there is no evidence to support taking supplements to reduce the risk or severity of Covid-19.
Paul Chrisp, director of the Centre for Guidelines at Nice, said: “While there are health benefits associated with vitamin D, our rapid evidence summary did not identify sufficient evidence to support the use of vitamin D supplements for the treatment or prevention of Covid-19.
“We know that the research on this subject is ongoing, and Nice is continuing to monitor new published evidence.”
And experts from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition said that current evidence does not support vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections – or infections of the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs – in the general UK population.
But the review stressed the importance of vitamin D for bone and muscle health.
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium and phosphate, which keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
In April, Public Health England (PHE) urged people to take vitamin D supplements as they were spending an increasing amount of time indoors during lockdown.
The public were told to consider taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day to keep their bones and muscles healthy.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “With many people spending more time indoors, particularly the more vulnerable groups and those shielding, there is a risk that some people may not be getting all the vitamin D they need from sunlight.
“It’s important they consider taking a daily 10 micrograms vitamin D supplement to help protect bone and muscle health.”
Colin Smith, a professor of functional genomics at the University of Brighton, said: “There are currently some very misleading articles doing the rounds on social media about mega doses of vitamin D as a Covid-19 protective measure – which are not true – and hence the urgent need to inform the public.
“In addition to maintaining healthy bones and muscles, vitamin D is very important for maintaining a healthy immune system.
“A balanced response by the body to infection by the coronavirus is very important since an overreaction of the immune system to the virus can be just as dangerous as a weak immune response.”
Additional reporting by PA