THE Scottish Government should consider sending vitamin D tablets to every household after research has found the nutrient may help the body fight off the coronavirus and could prevent people having to go to hospital, a senior doctor has said.

The call comes a week after ministers published revised guidance suggesting people should take the supplement due to the lockdown and fears they may not be getting enough of the essential nutrient.

“We are currently advising people to stay at home. For most people, this will mean being indoors for much of the day and not getting enough vitamin D from sunshine exposure. All ages. Since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including children and pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D,” said the guidance.

“This is especially important for people who are indoors all the time.”

However, one consultant believed publishing the updated vitamin D guidance on the Scottish Government website did not go far enough, and that ministers should be pursuing a more proactive communication strategy.

The senior doctor, who did not want to be named, told The National: “What we need to be saying to people is to make sure the Government is being explicit about being taking vitamin D, potentially through a public health campaign. They could also send each household vitamin D supplements.

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“Give four weeks of supplements to everyone in the household and tell them why they should take it. It should be taken in small doses every day. There needs to be an education campaign saying this is important.”

The doctor added: “It could prevent them going into hospital in the first place.”

The medic continued: “I have concerns about how we are not actively raising the profile of vitamin D supplements at a time of lockdown and shielding which will only make vitamin D deficiency worse. The Scottish Government website was updated last week, but with little fanfare. With an increasingly embattled NHS in the middle of this crisis, it is not clear who it falls to notify this more widely.”

The call comes as scientific evidence is mounting that the supplement can stop the disease reaching a critical stage. Earlier this month, a groundbreaking report by researchers at Trinity College Dublin found vitamin D helps prevent respiratory illness and benefits immune function.

Vitamin D is produced in the skin by exposing the body to 10 or 15 minutes of sun a day, however, many people in the northern hemisphere, especially in winter, suffer from a deficiency in it. This deficiency can be treated by supplements and eating certain foods such as eggs, liver and oily fish – such as salmon or mackerel – as well as fortified foods such as cereals and dairy products.

Speaking about the study, Professor Rose Anne Kenny, of Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) said last week: “We have evidence to support a role for vitamin D in the prevention of chest infections, particularly in older adults who have low levels. In one study, vitamin D reduced the risk of chest infections to half in people who took supplements.

“Though we do not know specifically of the role of vitamin D in Covid-19 infections, given its wider implications for improving immune responses and clear evidence for bone and muscle health, those cocooning and other at-risk cohorts should ensure they have an adequate intake of vitamin D.”

A BMJ study in 2017 reached similar conclusions, finding vitamin D supplementation resulted in a 12% reduction in respiratory patients experiencing an acute tract infection.

The senior doctor explained vitamin D helped the body’s immune system and in appeared to prevent the cytokine storm.

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