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Scientists say they can find no convincing evidence to show that taking vitamin D supplements will fend off a cold.

A New Zealand team did the “gold standard” of tests – a randomized placebo-controlled trial – to see what impact the supplements would have.

The 161 people who took daily vitamin D for 18 months caught as many colds as the 161 who took fake pills.

The study was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

However, Professor Ronald Eccles, a leading UK cold expert, said vitamin D was useful.

Prof. Ronald Eccles, of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, said it can give the immune system a much-needed boost during winter when vitamin D reserves may be low.

He said he takes it every year as a precaution.

“There is sufficient information to indicate that vitamin D is a vital vitamin for the immune system.

“Supplementation might help to support the immune system over the winter when we are short of vitamin D.”

He said Echinacea supplements may also help ward off coughs and colds, but added: “Supplements do not work for everybody because people’s immune systems are different. It’s not a case of one size fits all.”

They are pointless unless you are deficient, he said.

We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight on our skin, but it is also found in certain foods like oily fish, eggs and breakfast cereals.

Most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need by eating a healthy balanced diet and by getting some summer sun.

The study, carried out in New Zealand, which gets more sunshine annually than the UK, found the vitamin D supplements increased blood levels of the vitamin.

But this had no significant impact on the rate or severity of colds.

The vitamin D group caught an average of 3.7 colds per person compared with 3.8 colds per person for the placebo group.

There was no significant difference between the two groups in the number of days missed off work as a result of cold symptoms or duration of symptoms.

Adults catch between two to four colds a year and children up to 10 a year.



World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has advised that cutting back on salty foods such as bacon, bread and breakfast cereals may reduce people’s risk of developing stomach cancer.

It wants people to eat less salt and for the content of food to be labelled more clearly.

Too much salt is bad for blood pressure and can lead to heart disease and stroke, but it can also cause cancer.

The recommended daily limit is 6 g, about a level teaspoonful, but the World Cancer Research Fund said people were eating 8.6 g a day.

WCRF estimated that 14% of cases, around 800, could be avoided if everyone stuck to their 6 g a day.

Too much salt is bad for blood pressure and can lead to heart disease and stroke, but it can also cause cancer

Too much salt is bad for blood pressure and can lead to heart disease and stroke, but it can also cause cancer

Kate Mendoza, head of health information at WCRF, said: “Stomach cancer is difficult to treat successfully because most cases are not caught until the disease is well-established.

“This places even greater emphasis on making lifestyle choices to prevent the disease occurring in the first place – such as cutting down on salt intake and eating more fruit and vegetables.”

Eating too much salt is not all about sprinkling it over fish and chips or Sunday lunch, the vast majority is already inside food.

It is why the WCRF has called for a “traffic-light” system for food labelling – red for high, amber for medium and green for low.

However, this has proved controversial with many food manufacturers and supermarkets preferring other ways of labelling food.