According to a review of studies, asthma sufferers could help reduce their risk of severe asthma attacks by taking vitamin D supplements as well as their standard asthma medicines.
Asthma, a chronic disease that affects around 300 million people around the world, causes symptoms including wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
Low blood levels of vitamin D have been linked to increased risk of asthma attacks in children and adults with asthma. There has been a growing interest in the potential role of vitamin D in asthma management because it might help to reduce upper respiratory infections, (such as the common cold) that can lead to exacerbations of asthma.
Several clinical trials have tested whether taking a vitamin D supplement has an effect on asthma attacks, symptoms and lung function in children and adults with asthma.
The team of researchers found seven trials involving 435 children and two studies, involving 658 adults. Study participants were ethnically diverse, enrolled in trials trials in the United States, Canada, India, Japan, Poland and Britain.
The majority of people recruited to the studies had mild to moderate asthma, and a minority had severe asthma. Most people continued to take their usual asthma medication while participating in the studies. The studies lasted for between six and 12 months.
Vitamin D reduced asthma attacks requiring hospitalization, steroids
The researchers found that giving a vitamin D supplement reduced the risk of severe asthma attacks requiring hospital admission or emergency department attendance from 6% to around 3%. They also found that vitamin D supplementation reduced the rate of asthma attacks needing treatment with steroid medication. These results are based largely on trials in adults.
Vitamin D did not, however, improve lung function or day-to-day asthma symptoms.
The findings are promising for people with severe asthma, but more research is needed to determine if vitamin D, in fact, can benefit these patients.
It was also not yet clear whether the effect of vitamin D was across all patients, or only in those who had low vitamin D levels to start with.
The researchers also noted that with so many different types of asthma, vitamin D may benefit some people with the condition but not others.
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