Vitamin D 'reduces severe asthma attacks'

Sep 08, 2016, 01:24
Vitamin D 'reduces severe asthma attacks'

But it isn't yet clear whether the benefits are only seen in people who are low in vitamin D, and the benefit to people with severe asthma is unclear.

Three people in every 100 who took vitamin D in the studies had to go to hospital with an asthma attack, compared to six in every 100 who took placebo supplements (odds ratio 0.39, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.78).

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects around 300 million people around the world, often giving symptoms of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. None of the people taking a supplement suffered any adverse reactions. Evidence suggests it may help prevent respiratory infections, such as the common cold, which can lead to exacerbations in patients.

Review author Professor Adrian Martineau from the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, Queen Mary University of London, says in a statement: "This is an exciting result, but some caution is warranted".

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The results of a double blind, placebo-controlled study showed that vitamin D made asthma a little easier to live with.

Study researchers mentioned that in the past also there have been studies that have linked low levels of vitamin D in children to increased cases of severe asthma.

An independent review by the Cochrane research body analysed nine recent clinical trials - seven involving 435 children and two studies involving 658 adults, lasting up to a year. The patients were suffering from mild to moderate asthma with a minority having severe asthma. Two trials in more than 2,500 people showed that a year's course of benralizumab injections reduced asthma attacks by a third to a half, according to The Lancet.

Soaking in the sunlight or popping a vitamin D supplement won't worsen your asthma symptoms, but doing either doesn't mean you should leave your emergency inhaler at home.

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But vitamin D didn't improve the strength of the lungs or asthma symptoms day-to-day. "We need more trials specifically focusing on children and also specifically focusing on adults with severe asthma to see if those patient groups could benefit", Martineau said. People with low levels of vitamin D seem to be more likely to have asthma attacks. "Further analyses to investigate this question are ongoing, and results should be available in the next few months".

"You can think of vitamin D nearly as a designer drug because it has these two actions, the first being to boost immunity to infections and the second to dampen down inflammation", said Martineau.

Dr. Imran Rafi, chair of clinical innovation and research at the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that to be able to prescribe vitamin D supplements for asthma patients further, research involving both children and adults are necessary.

He said: "More work still needs to be done in gathering the evidence, particularly around effectiveness for young people and children - especially as it now affects as many as one in 11 children".

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