The National Jewish Center in Denver in January 2010 published a research study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine based upon testing done on 54 asthma patients. The findings suggest that generally the patients suffering from the worst asthma symptoms have the lowest vitamin D levels, thus suggesting that a possible method to improve the outcome for asthma patients is to increase vitamin D intake. Further research is needed to know exactly how much vitamin D, sometimes known as the “sunshine vitamin”, is needed to put the brakes on asthma.
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(from Vitamin D May Ease Asthma)
The results showed that people with higher vitamin D levels had better lung function measures than people with lower vitamin D levels. In particular, people with low vitamin D performed worse on tests of lung function and airway hyper-responsiveness, two hallmarks of asthma.
Researchers say vitamin D levels were directly related to the participants’ score on the breathing tests: the lower the vitamin D levels, the worse their performance.
For example, airway hyper-responsiveness was nearly twice as bad in people with vitamin D insufficiency (below the threshold level of 30 nanograms/milliliter) as in those with higher vitamin D levels
While this study doesn’t prove a causal relationship between low vitamin D and asthma, it does suggest that supplementing with vitamin D could help reduce the severity of the illness.
Japanese Study of Vitamin D vs. Flu Finds Asthma Connection
In a study from December 2008 to March 2009 of 334 Japanese children ages 6 to 15, half took placebo pills and the other half 1200 IU of vitamin D3 per day. The vitamin D group was 58 percent less likely to catch influenza A infections, similar to many other studies that show vitamin D can help prevent or reduce the severity of flu cases. But the researchers did not anticipate the drastic difference in asthma attacks between the two same-sized groups:
Vitamin D also appeared to suppress asthma attacks in children with a history of asthma. Two children taking vitamin D had asthma attacks during the study, compared to 12 children taking placebo. Urashima admitted to being a bit surprised by this finding and hopes to confirm it in a randomized trial targeting children with asthma.
Vitamin D May Improve Asthma By Reducing Inflammation in Lungs
As to how vitamin D may affect asthma, there is substantial evidence that it reduces inflammation throughout the body. This includes inflammation in lung tissue that contributes to asthma. It also benefits the functioning of the immune system by both reducing autoimmune reactions and boosting defenses against pathogens. It’s possible that some asthma patients may have symptoms worsened by mild respiratory infections and that the vitamin D prevents or reduces the severity or duration of these infections and thereby prevents some asthma attacks.
Growing Evidence For Importance of Vitamin D Supplementation
While there is no sure answer for the exact mechanisms involved in vitamin D helping fight asthma, given current research it appears to be prudent to increase the levels of vitamin D consumed by you and your family even if you don’t suffer from the illness. That’s because vitamin D deficiency is being tied to more and more chronic diseases, many of which start during childhood or early adult years, including diabetes, obesity, depression, and autoimmune disorders including multiple sclerosis.
Few adults attain optimal levels of vitamin D with less than 2000 IU per day or vitamin D3 supplements. Many adults need 4000 IU to 5000 IU per day, exponentially above the current outdated guidelines of 400 IU in the US RDA. Studies in adults suggest supplementing up to 10,000 IU per day is generally safe with low risk of side effects. Children require less vitamin D intake than adults likely because their smaller bodies allow lower quantities to reach optimal concentrations in tissues. The article Adjusting Your Vitamin D Intake to Optimal Levels contains much more information about how to fine-tine your vitamin D intake and verify it is working by inexpensive blood tests.
Optimal vitamin D supplementation for an adult can cost less than $20 per year and even less for young children. While periodic tests to verify the appropriate dosage can increase this cost during the initial one or two years while the dosage is being optimized, it should still be possible to keep the cost under $100 per year without any insurance coverage. As vitamin D supplementation and testing become more common, the cost may decline further. Many already would find it worthwhile even if it only saves them from a nasty bout with a flu or cold or prevents an asthma attack once a year.
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