Can vitamin D help in the fight against coronavirus?

I’ve always been sceptical about the role vitamin D plays in preventing infections, so I remain to be convinced that it should be added to foods like bread and milk to help prevent Covid-19.

It’s claimed depleted levels of vitamin D might increase the risk of catching coronavirus or having a more serious illness if you do get it.

Recently, Spanish researchers found that four out five patients with Covid-19 had low vitamin D levels.

However, Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care have rejected calls over the past 10 years to fortify foods such as milk, bread and orange juice, which is the practice in Finland, Sweden, Australia, the US and Canada.

In 2017, Professor Louis Levy, PHE’s head of nutrition science, responded to calls for fortification of foodstuffs with vitamin D by saying that there wasn’t enough evidence that vitamin D would reduce the risk of respiratory infections.

Dr Gareth Davies, a medical physics researcher in the fortification of food stuffs with vitamin D at the University of Aberdeen, has said, “In my opinion, it is clear that vitamin D could not only protect against disease severity but could also protect against infection. Picking the right foods to fortify would need to be done carefully.”

He said that at least half the ­population has a vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. I applaud Adrian Martineau, professor of respiratory infection at Queen Mary University in London, in independently leading a clinical trial to examine whether vitamin D can actually reduce the risk of Covid-19, or its severity. His project is called the Coronavit study and it began recently.

It’s supported by the Barts Charity, the Fischer Family Trust and the AIM Foundation, and will follow more than 5,000 people through the winter.

The Government recommends we all take vitamin D supplements (10mcg daily) from October to March, but people aren’t doing so.

A British Journal of Family Medicine article said as many as 30-40% of the UK population is vitamin D deficient in winter, but only 8% by the end of summer.

If we don’t take vitamin D it means that from October to March, people need to rely on other sources such as oily fish and eggs, but it’s almost impossible to get enough vitamin D from our diet alone.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Public Health England advises people to take a vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter.

“This is particularly important this year as many people may have spent more time indoors due to Covid-19.”