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.
To assess the overall effect of vitamin D supplementation on the risk of acute respiratory infections (ARIs) and to identify factors modifying this effect.
MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Web of Science, ClinicalTrials.gov and the International Standard Randomised Controlled Trials Number (ISRCTN) registry.
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 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.
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.
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.
This study is registered as PROSPERO CRD42014013953.
The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.