Now, the case for vitamin D supplementation in the treatment of asthma is being made.
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The findings, which appear in the September issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, are based on a review of nearly 60 years’ worth of literature on vitamin D status and asthma. They found that vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased airway reactivity, lower lung functions, and worse asthma control. Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency include obesity, being African-American, and living in Westernized countries, the researchers report. These are also populations known to be at higher risk for developing asthma.
Vitamin D supplementation may improve asthma control by blocking the cascade of inflammation-causing proteins in the lung, as well as increasing production of the protein interleukin-10, which has anti-inflammatory effects, the study authors suggest.
Vitamin D is often called “the sunshine vitamin” because our bodies make it when we are exposed to sunlight. Food sources include fish, eggs, and dairy products. It is also added to multivitamins and milk.
“The biggest issue is whether or not vitamin deficiency can be related to a worsening of asthma, and all the studies have been single-point in time studies, and the concern is that depending on where you live, you can be vitamin D-deficient in the winter, but not in the summer,” says Thomas B. Casale, MD, a professor of medicine and the chair of allergy and immunology at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. “We know that asthma gets worse in winter, when vitamin D is down,” he says.
More Research Warranted
The next step is long-term trials that look at the effects of vitamin D supplementation in people with asthma, the study authors say.