Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory infections: individual participant data meta-analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Adrian R Martineau
  • David A Jolliffe
  • Lauren Greenberg
  • John F Aloia
  • Peter Bergman
  • Gal Dubnov-Raz
  • Susanna Esposito
  • Davaasambuu Ganmaa
  • Adit A Ginde
  • Emma C Goodall
  • Cameron C Grant
  • Wim Janssens
  • Megan E Jensen
  • Conor P Kerley
  • Ilkka Laaksi
  • David Mauger
  • David R Murdoch
  • Rachel Neale
  • Judy R Rees
  • Steve Simpson
  • Iwona Stelmach
  • Geeta Trilok Kumar
  • Mitsuyoshi Urashima
  • Carlos A Camargo
  • Christopher J Griffiths
  • Richard L Hooper

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, Blizard Institute, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.
  • Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Blizard Institute, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London E1 2AB, UK.
  • Bone Mineral Research Center, Winthrop University Hospital, Mineola, NY, USA.
  • Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Deptartment of Exercise, Lifestyle and Nutrition Clinic, Edmond and Lily Safra Children's Hospital, Tel Hashomer, Israel.
  • Pediatric Highly Intensive Care Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy.
  • Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.
  • Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, CO, USA.
  • Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
  • Department of Paediatrics: Child & Youth Health, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Universitaire ziekenhuizen Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
  • Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Diseases, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia.
  • School of Biotechnology and National Centre for Sensor Research, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland.
  • Centre for Military Medicine, Finnish Defense Forces, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.
  • Department of Statistics, The Pennsylvania State University, Hershey, PA, USA.
  • Mackenzie Cancer Research Group, Department of Pathology, University of Otago Christchurch, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand.
  • Queensland Institute of Medical Research Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
  • Department of Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH, 03756, USA.
  • Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia.
  • Department of Pediatrics and Allergy, Medical University of Łódź, Łódź, Poland.
  • University of Delhi
  • Division of Molecular Epidemiology, Jikei University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.
  • Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
  • Medical Research Council and Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma, Blizard Institute, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.


BACKGROUND: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) exploring the potential of vitamin D to prevent acute respiratory infections have yielded mixed results. Individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis has the potential to identify factors that may explain this heterogeneity.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the overall effect of vitamin D supplementation on the risk of acute respiratory infections (ARIs) and to identify factors modifying this effect.

DATA SOURCES: MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Web of Science, and the International Standard Randomised Controlled Trials Number (ISRCTN) registry.

STUDY SELECTION: Randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of supplementation with vitamin D3 or vitamin D2 of any duration having incidence of acute respiratory infection as a prespecified efficacy outcome were selected.

STUDY APPRAISAL: Study quality was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration Risk of Bias tool to assess sequence generation, allocation concealment, blinding of participants, personnel and outcome assessors, completeness of outcome data, evidence of selective outcome reporting and other potential threats to validity.

RESULTS: We identified 25 eligible RCTs (a total of 11,321 participants, aged from 0 to 95 years). IPD were obtained for 10,933 out of 11,321 (96.6%) participants. Vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of ARI among all participants [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.88, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.81 to 0.96; heterogeneity p < 0.001]. Subgroup analysis revealed that protective effects were seen in individuals receiving daily or weekly vitamin D without additional bolus doses (aOR 0.81, 95% CI 0.72 to 0.91), but not in those receiving one or more bolus doses (aOR 0.97, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.10; p = 0.05). Among those receiving daily or weekly vitamin D, protective effects of vitamin D were stronger in individuals with a baseline 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentration of < 25 nmol/l (aOR 0.30, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.53) than in those with a baseline 25(OH)D concentration of ≥ 25 nmol/l (aOR 0.75, 95% CI 0.60 to 0.95; p = 0.006). Vitamin D did not influence the proportion of participants experiencing at least one serious adverse event (aOR 0.98, 95% CI 0.80 to 1.20; p = 0.83). The body of evidence contributing to these analyses was assessed as being of high quality.

LIMITATIONS: Our study had limited power to detect the effects of vitamin D supplementation on the risk of upper versus lower respiratory infection, analysed separately.

CONCLUSIONS: Vitamin D supplementation was safe, and it protected against ARIs overall. Very deficient individuals and those not receiving bolus doses experienced the benefit. Incorporation of additional IPD from ongoing trials in the field has the potential to increase statistical power for analyses of secondary outcomes.

STUDY REGISTRATION: This study is registered as PROSPERO CRD42014013953.

FUNDING: The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.

Bibliographic note

Martineau AR, Jolliffe DA, Greenberg L, Aloia JF, Bergman P, Dubnov-Raz G, et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory infections: individual participant data meta-analysis. Health Technol Assess 2019;23(2)


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-44
Number of pages44
JournalHealth Technology Assessment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas