According to the CDC there are about 25 million Americans who have asthma. That means that one 1 of every 12 people has some degree of wheezing, chest tightness, coughing or breathing difficulties. Could taking vitamin D for asthma make it easier to breathe?
A New Overview of Vitamin D for Asthma:
A meta-analysis of seven clinical trials found that there might be some justification for doctors to recommend vitamin D for asthma. Combining the trials provided data on 955 people randomly assigned to take vitamin D or a placebo, along with other medications for their asthma.
People who started the study deficient in vitamin D got great benefit from taking the vitamin. They were only half as likely to have a severe attack requiring emergency treatment. They were also 31 percent less likely to need corticosteroid treatment for frequent asthma attacks. That is a very important benefit as steroid medications come with some serious side effects.
The authors note:
“Our findings from analysing the study population as a whole are consistent with those of our recent aggregate data meta-analysis of RCTs of vitamin D for the management of asthma, which reported protective effects against asthma exacerbations treated with systemic corticosteroids of similar magnitude.”
A Word of Caution
Asthma patients should not stop taking their normal medications, but they should ask their doctors to check their vitamin D status. Any patients with 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below 25 nanomoles/Liter might benefit from a supplement.
[The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, online Oct. 3, 2017]
The authors conclude:
“In conclusion, our IPD [individual participant data] meta-analysis confirms results from our previous aggregate data meta-analysis showing that vitamin D supplementation safely reduces the rate of asthma exacerbations overall…In view of the low cost of this intervention and the major economic burden associated with asthma exacerbations, vitamin D supplementation represents a potentially cost-effective strategy to reduce this important cause of morbidity and mortality.”
Other Research on Vitamin D for Asthma and Lung Infections:
This is not the first time investigators have wondered about the benefits of vitamin D for asthma and other lung problems. A study published in BMJ (online, Feb. 15, 2017) concluded:
“Vitamin D supplementation was safe and it protected against acute respiratory tract infection overall. Patients who were very vitamin D deficient and those not receiving bolus doses experienced the most benefit.”
These investigators analyzed data from 25 randomized controlled trials involving over 10,000 subjects. The authors seem comfortable recommending vitamin D supplementation for “a major new indication”: “the prevention of acute respiratory tract infection.”
There are also data suggesting that vitamin D3 supplementation can protect people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) from “exacerbations” or worsening of their condition. This is especially true if their 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels are lower than 50nmol/L (Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Feb. 2015).
The Cadillac of Assessments:
Finally, a Cochrane analysis of existing data (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Sep. 5, 2016) concluded:
“Meta-analysis of a modest number of trials in people with predominantly mild to moderate asthma suggests that vitamin D is likely to reduce both the risk of severe asthma exacerbation and healthcare use.”
People’s Pharmacy Perspective:
People with low levels of vitamin D may be especially prone to upper respiratory tract infections and worsening asthma and COPD attacks. Daily doses of vitamin D seem to make sense, especially if people are deficient in this crucial nutrient.
You may find two publications of additional interest: