Vitamin D Supplementation: Protection from Respiratory Infections?

FEBRUARY 01, 2017
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor
Although individuals aged 65 years and older face a heighted chance of developing complications from acute respiratory infections (ARIs), a recent study has indicated that use of vitamin D supplements can help these patients strengthen their immunity against such infections.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, analyzed data on 107 patients aged 60 years and older who lived in long-term care (LTC) facilities in Colorado. Participants in the high-dose group, consisting solely of patients who were already taking 1000 IU of vitamin D each day, were given an additional dose of 100,000 IU of vitamin D once a month, while those in the low-dose group received either a single dose of 12,000 IU or a placebo once a month.
After tracking ARIs, falls, fractures, hospitalizations, and deaths over a 12-month follow-up period, the researchers noted that patients in the high-dose group had 40% fewer ARIs than those in the low-dose group.
However, the participants in the high-dose group also experienced over twice as many falls as those in the low-dose group; this was consistent with a previous study in which high doses of vitamin D were linked to a greater number of falls.
The study authors noted that further research is needed to determine the effects of higher daily doses of vitamin D on ARI and fall risk.
“In summary, monthly high-dose vitamin D supplementation reduced the incidence of ARIs but increased falls, without an increase in fractures, in older LTC residents,” the study authors concluded. “If these results are confirmed in a larger trial, high-dose vitamin D, ideally using daily dosing to minimize fall risk, has the potential for substantial public health benefit through ARI prevention for the large and growing population of LTC residents.”
  1. Ginde A, Blatchford P, Breese K, et al. High-dose monthly vitamin D for prevention of acute respiratory infection in older long-term care residents: a randomized clinical trial. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2016; doi: 10.1111/jgs.14679.