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  • When we think of nutrients that boost the immune system, vitamin C and zinc come to mind. Vitamin D? Not so much especially when you talk about vitamins for grown-ups. But a recent study is putting the "sunshine vitamin"  back on the map as protection against colds, flu, and other respiratory infections. 

    Published in The British Medical Journal, the research suggests that receiving vitamin D supplements reduces the risk for respiratory infections especially for those who don’t get enough of it. Led by researchers from the Queen Mary University of London, the study involved analyzing data from 11,000 participants who took part in 25 clinical trials from 14 different countries. 

    “What we found is that those with the lowest vitamin D levels experienced the greatest benefit from supplementation,” lead researcher Dr. Adrian Martineau told the NPR. Those who were vitamin D deficient cut their risk of infection by half, according to the findings. 

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    “The bottom line is that the protective effects of vitamin D supplementation are strongest in those who have the lowest vitamin D levels, and when supplementation is given daily or weekly rather than in more widely-spaced doses,” Dr. Martineau said in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse.

    Commenting on the study, however, is Professor Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England, who says only certain individuals are recommended to take vitamin D supplements all year round, according to The Independent. “The evidence on vitamin D and infection are inconsistent, and this study does not provide sufficient evidence to support recommending vitamin D for reducing the risk of respiratory tract infections.”    

    No one disputes the benefits of vitamin D to our health especially our bones, and we, Pinoys, are fortunate because we can get it naturally for free  almost all year round. According to the World Health Organization, sunlight is the most important source of vitamin D. Dr. Zoe Arugay recommends 20 to 30 minutes of full sun exposure every day. “It has to be directly on top of you, and it has to be bathing you with sun rays,” she told Inquirer.net.

    What time is best? You may be surprised to know Dr. Arugay and other experts recommend soaking up the midday sun (between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m). Just don't go beyond 30 minutes of sunbathing. Keep it to 15 minutes if it's been awhile since your skin last saw the sun.   

    You can also go for  foods that contain vitamin D, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Eggs and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackarel are good sources. In the U.S., most milk products are fortified with vitamin D. It’s also added to breakfast cereals and some brands of orange juice and yogurt. 

    Sources: The Independent, NPR, Inquirer.net, Department of Health, PreenNational Institutes of Health

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