Vitamin D 'significantly reduces severe asthma attacks'

Taking vitamin D supplements could significantly cut the risk of severe asthma attacks for some sufferers, say health experts.

The study claimed that intake of vitamin D tablets reduced the cases of severe attacks, which usually require a person to be admitted to the hospital or emergency department, from 6% to 3%. Taking vitamin D supplements also reduced the need for treating patients with steroids.

More than five million people in the United Kingdom, and 334 million globally, are affected by asthma which causes wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath.

A daily dose of Vitamin D halves the risk of severe asthma attacks, a new study has shown.

Researchers said low blood levels of vitamin D had previously been linked to increased risk of asthma attacks and there was growing interest in its potential role in asthma management because it might help to reduce upper respiratory infections that can lead to exacerbations.

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".

As such, researchers have increasingly investigated whether vitamin D supplementation might benefit asthma patients. A review of previous data found that vitamin D supplements could have a protective effect against serious asthma attacks when taken alongside normal asthma treatment.

The researchers said: "Vitamin D is likely to offer protection against severe asthma attacks".

The team of Cochrane researchers found seven trials involving 435 children and two studies, involving 658 adults. Participants continued to use their standard medications, and suffered from mild to moderate asthma as opposed to severe asthma.

Dr. Rebecca Normansell recommends people to take a blood test to see what their level of vitamin D is and then talk to a GP or pharmacist for advice over supplements. These results are based largely on trials in adults.

Vitamin D has always been associated with asthma so the researchers looked into the efficacy of the supplement on patients with the condition.

"First, the findings relating to severe asthma attacks come from just three trials: most of the patients enrolled in these studies were adults with mild or moderate asthma".

He said further analyses were on-going 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.

In July (16), Public Health England recommended that everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter.

"However, 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", he said.

  • Delores Daniels