UK researchers are planning a ‘test-and-treat’ approach to correct people’s vitamin D deficiency to study whether this reduces the risk and/or severity of COVID-19 and other acute respiratory infections.
Led by Queen Mary University of London, the CORONAVIT trial will run for six months and involve more than 5,000 UK citizens aged 16 and above. Participants will take a postal finger prick vitamin D test, with those found to have low levels of vitamin D in their blood given a six months’ supply of either 800 IU or 3,200 IU of vitamin D a day.
The research team will then track the incidence of doctor-diagnosed or laboratory-confirmed acute respiratory infection in the participants, including COVID-19, to see whether vitamin D supplementation has had an effect on their risk and severity of infection.
The primary outcome measure of the trial – which is backed by Denmark’s Pharma Nord and non-profit Barts Charity – is the proportion of participants experiencing at least one doctor-diagnosed or laboratory-confirmed acute respiratory infection of any cause during the six-month period.
Among the secondary outcome measures are the proportion of participants developing antigen test-positive COVID-19 and the proportion developing 'probable COVID-19', as adjudged using a validated symptom score.
Definitive Answer Sought
“The CORONAVIT trial has the potential to give a definitive answer to the question of whether vitamin D offers protection against COVID-19,” commented the study’s principal investigator Dr David Jolliffe of Queen Mary University. “Vitamin D supplements are low in cost, low in risk and widely accessible; if proven effective, they could significantly aid in our global fight against the virus.”
Recent studies have suggested that people with lower vitamin D levels may be more susceptible to coronavirus.
Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the risk of contracting COVID-19 was 1.77 times greater for patients with deficient vitamin D levels compared to patients with sufficient levels of the nutrient. (Also see "Vitamin D And COVID-19 Studies: Prevention Benefits Suggested By Chicago Research" - HBW Insight, 18 Sep, 2020.)
The findings “appear to support a role” of vitamin D status in COVID-19 risk, the study’s authors said at the time, but added that randomized clinical trials were needed to determine whether broad population interventions and interventions among groups at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 could reduce the incidence of the virus.
UK Population D Deficient
Lead researcher on the CORONAVIT trial Professor Adrian Martineau said the UK was the ideal location for further study as around two in five of the adult population had inadequate levels of vitamin D over winter and spring.
While the UK government had recently recommended year-round supplementation of 10mcg per day in view of potentially decreased sun exposure during lockdown, Martineau said early unpublished data from Queen Mary University showed that two in three people were not following this advice. This was potentially due to a reluctance to buy and take a supplement without a test result that shows they are vitamin D deficient, he explained. ( (Also see "UK’s National Health Service Recommends Daily Vitamin D Supplementation" - HBW Insight, 24 Apr, 2020.))
The UK government updated its advice on vitamin D supplementation despite the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence concluding in July there was no evidence to support using the nutrient to specifically prevent or treat COVID‑19. (Also see "No Evidence That Vitamin D Prevents Or Treats COVID-19" - HBW Insight, 3 Jul, 2020.)
In a report published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health in May, researchers in England said there is “no strong” scientific evidence showing that high intake of vitamin D is beneficial in preventing or treating COVID-19, though they do recommend supplementation for overall health. (Also see "Vitamin D No ‘Magic Bullet’ Against COVID-19, But Should Be Part Of Nutrition Arsenal" - HBW Insight, 28 May, 2020.)
Supplement Marketers Warned
With conclusive evidence of the role of vitamin D, or any other nutrient for that matter, in protecting against COVID-19, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority warned supplement marketers back in July not to make unsubstantiated claims.
Noting that many advertisers were choosing to highlight the health benefits that substances in their dietary supplements could provide during the ongoing pandemic, the regulator pointed out there were strict rules governing what companies could say about the links between their products, the ingredients in them, and health.
“This means that ads for such products cannot make any explicit or implicit references to COVID-19, coronavirus, viruses, flu (or any other adverse health condition), or any of the symptoms of such conditions,” ASA explained. (Also see "COVID-19 Mentions Prohibited From Supplement Ads - UK Regulator" - HBW Insight, 20 Jul, 2020.)
in the US, the Food and Drug Administration has quickly and consistently warned marketers of supplements and other consumer health products against claiming any sort of link between use of their goods and preventing or treating infections from the novel coronavirus. (Also see "False COVID-19 Claims In US Consumer Health Market: Rampant With Forecast For More" - HBW Insight, 9 May, 2020.)