According to a latest review of clinical trials in adults and children with asthma, it has been found that taking vitamin D supplements with standard asthma drugs reduces the risk of severe asthma attacks. These attacks usually require systemic corticosteroids such as vilanterol.
Taking vitamin D also lowers exacerbation intensity that can require urgent medical care. Low vitamin D levels are linked with increased probability of asthma attacks but have never been studied probably, so the researchers decided to investigate the link thoroughly.
Asthma is the most common medical condition in youth in the US and accounts for much of the morbidity, especially in minority groups or poor families. Hypovitaminosis D is also highly prevalent throughout the developed world.
Several recent observational studies have documented a correlation between asthma severity and vitamin D levels; however, there is no strong evidence for causality yet.
The study was a meta-analysis of trials containing a placebo element that lasted for a minimum of 3 months to investigate the effects of vitamin D supplements on severe asthma attacks.
The researchers included 8 trials that met the criteria, six of which included 435 children, and 2 of which included 658 adults. The studies lasted 4 to 12 months. Most patients involved in the trial had symptoms of mild to moderate asthma.
The results showed that vitamin D supplements lowered the risk of at least one asthma exacerbation incident that required a visit to a hospital emergency department or hospital admission or both. The number needed to treat with vitamin D to avoid a severe asthma attack was 27 patients.
The results were published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and reported at the European Respiratory Society International Congress.
Administration of vitamin D also decreased the incident rate of asthma exacerbations requiring systemic steroids. But there was little or no effect on the measures of lung function or everyday asthma symptoms.
A similar study looked at the effects of vitamin D supplements at reducing seasonal influenza symptoms in school children. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial compared vitamin D supplements with placebo in school children.
The results showed that influenza occurred in 18 of 167 children in the vitamin D group, compared with 31 of 167 children in the placebo group. The study proved that vitamin D supplements can reduce influenza symptoms in winters among children.
Also, in autumn, winters and colder months, sunshine is a rare phenomenon due to overhead clouds and stormy weather conditions. Some people, especially school kids, are at a risk of developing vitamin D deficiency which can lead to weaker immune systems, resulting in cases of influenza.
In this case one should take daily supplements containing 10 microgram (mcg) of vitamin D, according to the Department of Health, UK.
The review’s lead author, Adrian Martineau, of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, Queen Mary University of London, said, “We found that taking a vitamin D supplement in addition to standard asthma treatment significantly reduced the risk of severe asthma attacks without causing side effects.”
However, he warned that the findings regarding severe asthma attacks came from only three trials, which mostly included patients with mild or moderate asthma. He followed up by saying, “Further vitamin D trials in children and adults with severe asthma are needed to find out whether these patient groups will also benefit.”
One important thing to note, however, was that it was yet unclear whether vitamin D supplements assisted in reducing severe asthma attack risk in all patients or only in those with low vitamin D levels, according to Martineau. “Further analyses to investigate these questions are ongoing, and results should be available in the next few months,” Martineau added.
Vitamin D is a vital component for normal body health. Vitamin d deficiency is agreed upon as a pandemic and African Americans are at a greater risk for contracting the deficiency. Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to weaker bones and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The natural sources for vitamin D are eggs, milk and fish, especially tuna, salmon and sardines. The chief source of vitamin D is direct sunlight but most people will require a supplement to meet their daily requirements.
However, darker skin is not as efficient at absorbing vitamin D as lighter skin, due to which Afro-Americans have on average about half the blood level of vitamin D when compared to population with lighter skin tones and Caucasian ethnicities.
According to the National Institute of Health, adults above 70 years need the most vitamin D, with 800 IU. From birth to 12 months, babies need 400 IU, while children 1 to 3 years, teens 14 to 18 years, adults 19 to 70 years and pregnant and breastfeeding women, need 600 IU of Vitamin D.