(NaturalNews) A vitamin D supplement is more effective at reducing the risk of flu infection than vaccines or antiviral drugs, according to a study conducted by researchers from Jikei University School of Medicine in Tokyo and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers conducted the double-blind, randomized study on 354 children between the ages of six and 15 during the winter of 2008-2009. Half the children were assigned to take a daily supplement of 1,200 IU of vitamin D, while the other half were given a placebo pill.
After one month, influenza infection rates in the two groups remained the same. By the second month, however, participants in the vitamin D group were 50 percent less likely to become infected than participants in the control group. This drop in infection rate corresponded with an increase in vitamin D blood levels.
In contrast, antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir and zanamivir reduced rates of infection by only 8 percent. Even vaccines had success rates significantly lower than the 50 percent achieved by vitamin D.
When the analysis excluded children who were being given vitamin D supplements at home, supplementation was found to reduce the risk of infection by 67 percent.
Because vitamin D is an essential nutrient, it poses no side effects if given in appropriate doses. In contrast, both drugs and vaccines can produce negative side effects in many people.
In addition, higher vitamin D levels lead to stronger bones and teeth, a more well-regulated immune system, and an overall lower risk of infection, heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders.
Vitamin D is synthesized naturally by the body upon exposure to sunlight, but a decrease in time spent outdoors plus growing use of sunscreen due to skin cancer fears has contributed to widespread deficiency. Vitamin D levels tend to hit their lowest point in most people during the winter, when the sun is at its weakest. This corresponds with the time period during which flu infections peak.