Background: Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a number of diseases, including influenza. Whether or not this reflects a causal relationship is unknown. We therefore wanted to examine if supplementation with vitamin D would affect the incidence and severity of influenza-like disease.
Methods: Questionnaires on influenza were sent to subjects participating in ongoing placebo-controlled intervention studies with vitamin D supplementation, up until the end of April 2010.
Results: Five hundred and sixty-nine subjects from 10 different clinical trials were included in the study, of whom 289 were randomized to receive vitamin D (1111-6800 IU/day) and 280 to receive placebo. Influenza-like disease during the previous fall/winter was reported in 38 subjects in the vitamin D group and 42 in the placebo group (non-significant), of whom 25 and 26 subjects, respectively, fulfilled our clinical criteria for influenza. In these latter subjects, the duration of illness was significantly longer among those in the vitamin D group than among those in the placebo group (median 7 (range 2-60) days vs median 4 (range 2-18) days; p = 0.007). However, this difference was not statistically significant if all 38 (vitamin D) and 42 (placebo) subjects who reported symptoms were included.
Conclusion: Our results do not support the hypothesis that high doses of vitamin D supplementation will have a pronounced effect on influenza-like disease in populations not targeted for high influenza risk.