In a packed House of Commons last week, Matt Hancock stated that the government-led research found vitamin D did not ‘appear to have any impact,’ on alleviating the virus.
According to The Times, ministers have since admitted that no clinical trials on the vitamin have taken place.
Earlier this week, Hancock was questioned on this very issue in the Commons Chambers by Dr Rupa Huq, Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Ealing Central and Acton, as calls to reconsider the vitamin’s effectiveness in tackling the virus grew louder.
“Exactly a week ago in this Chamber, I asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care about the efficacy of vitamin D as an extra bit of armour against coronavirus,” she said.
“He said that he had conducted a trial and there was no effect. It turns out that there was no trial.
“Apparently it was a National Institute for Health and Care Excellence review of secondary evidence on 1 July.
“The word “trial” implies fresh evidence, not reheated leftovers. The Secretary of State is here, so I wonder if he can correct the record.
‘What matters is best and right advice’
In response, Hancock agreed to take Dr Huq and other Members through existing evidence as well as listen to any further evidence.
“What matters is getting the best and the right clinical advice,” he said. “I am enthusiastic to hear about all possible scientific advances that might be helpful.”
Other Members could include David Davis Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden, who this week tweeted: “Yet more evidence that Vitamin D deficiency has a dramatic effect on adverse effects of Covid-19.
“Time our government woke up to this. Correcting this is more effective and 100x cheaper than some other government anti-Covid policies.”
Davis, the ex-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, has been a vocal advocate of the use of vitamin D in fighting the virus having tweeted back in May, a copy of a letter to Hancock urging the government to review the research on how vitamin D deficiency affects COVID-19 morbidity.
Just last week, NutraIngredients highlighted growing calls from researchers and doctors who are encouraging governments to increase vitamin D intake to 4000 International Units (IU) daily as they believe this would reduce COVID-19 hospitalisations.
In an open letter, one of the researchers, Dr Gareth Davies said the UK’s vitamin D recommendation of 400 IU daily is 10 times smaller than is deemed necessary during this period.
While 4000 IUs daily was considered more adequate, some in the group are calling for doses of up to 10000 IU in cases of severe deficiency.
“For most people, the idea that a simple over-the-counter vitamin can actually help fight a pandemic is so preposterous and I think this is largely due to the fact it is referred to as a ‘vitamin’ when it’s not; it is an essential hormone which the immune system requires in order to function adequately.”
Rationale to explore vit D role
Last month, a study suggested that compared to those with sufficient levels of vitamin D (blood level 25-hydroxyvitamin D of at least 30 nanograms per millilitre (ng/mL)), people with a vitamin D deficiency (blood level 25-hydroxyvitamin D less than 20 ng/mL) had a 54% higher SARS-CoV-2 positivity rate.
“Our findings provide further rationale to explore the role of vitamin D supplementation in reducing the risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 disease,” wrote the researchers, led by Dr Harvey Kaufman, from Quest Diagnostics and Dr Michael Holick, professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics and Molecular Medicine at Boston University Medical Campus.
“If controlled trials find this relationship to be causative, the implications are vast and would present a cheap, readily-available method for helping prevent infection, especially for those with vitamin D deficiency.”