Conservative MP calls for nationwide rollout of vitamin D tablets

Pictured, David Davis, MP for Haltemprice and Howden

Conservative backbencher David Davis MP has called for the UK Government to distribute vitamin D supplementation to society’s most at-risk of Covid-19.

Mr Davis says Britain should follow the lead of the Spanish region of Andalusia in the south of Spain, which distributed calcifediol, a vitamin D supplement, to care home residents in November.

Since then, Andalusia’s figure for deaths per million from Covid-19 has dropped from 187 in November to just 11 at the start of January, and is on track for just 33 for the month, an 82 per cent drop from November.

Meanwhile, the UK’s comparative toll has escalated from 175 in November to what will be more than 300 for January.

Mr Davis believes it is time for the UK Government to renew its interest in vitamin D and roll it out to all at-risk people.

Vitamin D is naturally produced in the body when skin is exposed to sunlight, but in many northern parts of the world without much sunlight, vitamin D deficiency is commonplace.

It is naturally found in oily fish such as salmon, egg yolks, mushrooms and red meat. The NHS says adults should have around 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day.

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Mr Davis says Britain should follow the lead of the Spanish region of Andalusia in the south of Spain, which distributed calcifediol to care home residents in November. Since then, Andalusia's figure for deaths per million from Covid-19 has dropped from 187 in November to just 11 at the start of January

Mr Davis says Britain should follow the lead of the Spanish region of Andalusia in the south of Spain, which distributed calcifediol to care home residents in November. Since then, Andalusia’s figure for deaths per million from Covid-19 has dropped from 187 in November to just 11 at the start of January

However, a UK Government review recently found there is ‘not enough evidence’ that taking vitamin D supplements can prevent or treat Covid-19.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered a rapid review into the vitamin’s effect on Covid in October, after coming under fire for previously writing it off without any evidence to back his claims.

A panel of experts across multiple Government agencies, including Public Health England, analysed ‘the best’ scientific studies from around the world, though they did not say which or how many papers they looked at.

But the team, led by NHS watchdog NICE, said ‘it was not possible’ to determine a direct relationship between vitamin D and Covid, citing a lack of high-quality trials.

A mountain of studies have found that an overwhelming amount of people who get Covid-19 do not have enough vitamin D in their bodies and the sickest of patients are often deficient.

‘To give the Government proper credit they have instigated the provision of a supplement, free of charge, to the clinically extremely vulnerable in care homes,’ Mr Davis said today in the House of Commons during an adjournment debate.

‘However, if supplementation is to have any serious effect, the dosage has to be sufficient to correct the existing efficiency.

‘Sadly, with the Government’s programme for the clinically extremely vulnerable, the supplementation falls far short of this.’

He explains the Government is supplying 100 international units of vitamin D. One microgram of vitamin D equates to 40 international units.

Mr Davis says the existing programme is a ‘small step in the right direction’ but is merely a ‘drop in the ocean’.

‘What is needed to provide adequate protection against Covid-19 is a significantly higher dose, up to 4,000 units a day.

‘Particularly for those vulnerable groups that tend to be deficient in the vitamin, namely the elderly, the ethnic minorities and those suffering from a number of medical conditions.’

A previous study found that 72 per cent of NHS workers in Birmingham who were lacking in vitamin D (left column) tested positive for coronavirus antibodies in the blood. This compared to just 51 per cent for those who had a healthy amount of the vitamin (right column)

A previous study found that 72 per cent of NHS workers in Birmingham who were lacking in vitamin D (left column) tested positive for coronavirus antibodies in the blood. This compared to just 51 per cent for those who had a healthy amount of the vitamin (right column)

He calls for a wider scheme to provide supplements to all at-risk populations, including the elderly, the obese, BAME individuals, diabetics, people with high blood pressure etc.

A recent study from Australian researchers found many people from ethnic minorities in the UK are severely deficient in vitamin D.

It revealed more than half of Asians are severely deficient in winter and more than a third of black Africans suffer an ‘alarmingly high’ lack of the vitamin.

The cost of supplying an individual person with a year’s supply of the vitamin would be around £15, equating to £200million for all at-risk people.

‘There is now no reason not to act,’ he says. ‘Vitamin D is cheap, it is safe, it has many other proven health benefits and as the government of Andalusia has shown, it could be a dramatically effective weapon in our fight against Covid.

‘There is no more time to waste, the time to act is now.’

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London are currently carrying out a randomised trial probing the potential benefits of the nutrient on Covid-19.

The scientists gave 5,000 volunteers the vitamin in October and will assess them over six months if they do not already take high doses.

Experts will then assess whether participants are at less risk of catching the virus and developing a severe bout of the disease over the winter months.

Ms Jo Churchill MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care at the Department of Health and Social Care, said in the Commons: ‘There are several nutrients involved in the normal functioning of the immune system however, there is currently insufficient evidence that taking vitamin D will mitigate the effects of Covid-19.

‘The longstanding Government advice is that between October and early March everyone is advised to take a supplement containing 10mg or 400 international units of vitamin D a day.’

Widespread vitamin D deficiency is due to human migration from sunny regions to darker, colder parts of the planet over the last 500 years

Human migration over the last 500 years from sunny places to colder, darker more northerly homes has led to a surge in the number of people suffering from vitamin D deficiencies, a new study reveals.

Academics created a computer model to calculate the difference in exposure to UV rays from the sun in both a person’s ancestral and current location.

They found going to places with lower levels of sunlight can result in vitamin D deficiency, which is directly associated with higher risk of mortality from illnesses including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers.

Recent research even finds that vitamin D affects the severity of COVID-19.

‘Our results suggest that low UV regions that have received substantial immigration from high UV-R regions experience lower life expectancy than would have been the case in the absence of such migration flows,’ the researchers write in their study, published in Oxford Economics Papers.

‘If current movements of people continue, which to a large extent represent movements from “South to North”, much more variation [in life expectancy] is likely to become visible during the 21st century,’ the researchers from the University of Southern Denmark and the University of Copenhagen say.

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