press release
Published: 02 July 2020

Surrey academic helps shape Government policy

World renowned vitamin D expert, Professor Susan Lanham-New, Head of Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Surrey, has played a pivotal role during the current pandemic in advising Government policy on vitamin D and its possible link to Covid-19 and other upper respiratory tract infections.

Professor Susan Lanham-New

The expertise of Professor Lanham-New was utilised in guidance published this week by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) (of which she is a member) and The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) which indicated that there was no current strong evidenced-based link between vitamin D levels in the body and upper respiratory tract infections. This dispels recent misconceptions of a link between the two.

In addition, Professor Lanham-New has also helped advise Public Health England on their updated guidance on vitamin D supplementation during the current pandemic. The new guidance recommends that everyone (especially children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, ethnic groups and older people) should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D.

During this time, Dr Andrea Darling from Surrey’s Vitamin D Team has been undertaking ground breaking research into Covid-19. Analysing the data of over 6000 individuals from the UK Biobank, the team identified factors, such as being overweight or obese,  being male and being of Asian, black or mixed ethnicity, were  associated with higher odds of testing positive for Covid-19. This research also found that vitamin D status was almost identical in those who tested positive for Covid-19 compared to those who tested negative.

Professor Lanham-New has also led on a Vitamin D/COVID-19 consensus paper, co-authored with 20 international academics  which has found that high doses of vitamin D supplementation has no current benefit in preventing or treating Covid-19 and warned of the dangers of taking excessive amounts of the vitamin. Her work on COVID-19 and vitamin D has achieved significant media coverage and has increased the public’s knowledge about vitamin D. It is the only peer-reviewed paper that is quoted by the Royal College of Physicians guidance on COVID-19 and Vitamin D.

Professor Lanham-New said: “I am absolutely honoured to have been given the opportunity to help inform and shape Government policy. There has been a lot of misconceptions lately about the role vitamin D plays in preventing and treating Covid-19 and its link to upper respiratory tract infections. It is important that these claims are corrected, as it is vital that the public receive accurate, up to date information.”

To learn more about vitamin D and its possible link to Covid-19 take a listen to Guardian Science podcast with Professor Susan Lanham-New or alternatively take a read of this New York Times article that she contributed to.

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