Irish people should take daily Vitamin D supplements to increase protection against coronavirus and other respiratory diseases, according to a new Government report.
The Oireachtas Health Committee report finds that Vitamin D deficiency is “common and severe” across the entire adult population in Ireland.
While the deficiency is largely linked to the lack of sunshine in Ireland, the report finds that the ban on foreign travel and advice for elderly people to cocoon and stay indoors during the pandemic has increased the problem.
The report notes that the deficiency must be addressed to protect our more vulnerable communities, “not only from COVID-19, but from a range of other illnesses, particularly during the winter months.”
The benefits of Vitamin D in the fight against COVID-19 and other viruses have been well-publicised throughout the pandemic; however, this is the first time the Oireachtas has called for its widespread use.
The 28-page report makes four main recommendations:
- Daily Vitamin D supplements of 20 to 25 micrograms should be recommended for the entire adult population, “where possible and medically appropriate.”
- A public health policy aimed at encouraging increased intake of Vitamin D supplements should be developed in time for Budget 2022.
- The Government should reconsider the VAT on Vitamin D supplements to reduce their cost.
- Vitamin D supplements should be administered on an opt-out basis to vulnerable groups, frontline health workers and people living in confined settings.
It also notes that children should take a daily supplement of 10 micrograms.
Meanwhile, older people, those who are overweight or obese, those who have darker skin pigmentation and those with other increased risk factors for Vitamin D deficiency should take higher doses, under medical supervision, when needed.
The report finds that Vitamin D is known to assist the immune system in fighting harmful bacteria and viruses, and to reduce the risk of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI).
Focusing on evidence from a major international study entitled, ‘the Jolliffe papers,’ it suggests that people who take Vitamin D daily experience a 25% reduction in the risk of respiratory infection.
In terms of COVID-19 itself, the report finds that large-scale, placebo-controlled trials of the effectiveness of Vitamin D in increasing protection against the virus have yet to be carried out.
However, it suggests that the evidence from studies that have been carried out, “strongly support a causal relationship between low vitamin D status and increased risk and severity of Covid-19 infection .”
“Irrespective of COVID-19, Vitamin D supplementation is an essential public health measure required to address the widespread deficiency noted across the Irish population and the significant adverse health effects of this deficiency,” according to the report.
It finds that addressing the vitamin D deficiency across Ireland’s entire population must now be “established as an essential cornerstone of our public health policy.”