A Melbourne medical research institute is calling for a vitamin D rollout in Australia’s aged care facilities “without delay”, arguing the supplements can build immunity to COVID-19 and help save lives.
The National Institute of Integrative Medicine’s (NIIM) Professor Ian Brighthope said there was mounting evidence the widely available nutrient could play a significant defensive role against coronavirus.
He called on the Federal Government to subsidise the supplements in aged care facilities, saying the move had the “potential to save hundreds, if not thousands of lives”.
“Research from around the world is showing that vitamin D can play an essential role in both building immunity to the virus in the first place and also reducing the impact of the disease on those who do fall ill,” Prof Brighthope said.
“This evidence has so far been ignored in Australia despite governments in England and Scotland recommending daily supplements and other countries urgently considering taking similar steps. Every day that passes without action on this represents a lost opportunity to save lives.”
One in five Australians are vitamin D deficient, with the statistics more damning among higher-risk groups, Prof Brighthope said.
“There is growing understanding of the role nutrition plays in human health. Around 30 per cent of doctors practise some form of integrative medicine, which includes nutrition and vitamin therapies, and over 70 per cent of the Australian population use some form of complementary medicines.”
The institute’s founding director Professor Avni Sali said vitamin D could be a “cheaper and safe” method of safeguarding elderly Australians against COVID-19 until a vaccine was found.
“We are therefore urging the Government to recommend supplementation for all Australians and ideally implement a subsidised program, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable,” he said.
“Vitamin D is inexpensive and available now. On a cost-benefit basis, this is a very easy decision.
“A successful vitamin D program, introduced alongside existing social distancing and hygiene measures, would allow Australia’s economy to open up more quickly.”
It comes as Victoria recorded 81 new cases and 59 deaths on Friday.
It’s the biggest daily death toll the state has seen so far, taking Victoria’s death toll to 660 – although 50 of those deaths occurred in July and August, the Department of Health confirmed.