UK researchers: Vitamin D supplements may cure asthma

October 9, 2017

A team of researchers from Queen Mary University of London has found that people who take vitamin D supplements alongside their asthma medication are half less than likely to end up in hospital for treatment, than those who do not.

The researchers believe that this is because vitamin D helps protect against the body’s immune responses to respiratory viruses, reducing inflammation of the airways that characterise severe asthma symptoms.

The study found:

A 30% reduction in the rate of asthma attacks requiring treatment with steroid tablets or injections – from 0.43 events per person per year to 0.30

A 50% reduction in the risk of experiencing at least one asthma attack requiring admission to hospital or a trip to A&E

Vitamin D supplements to be safe when administered at the rate of between 500 IU and 2000 IU a day

Researchers based their findings on 7 studies that involved 955 participants.

The ‘sunshine vitamin’

They say vitamin D supplements are safe to take and are quite cheap.

Vitamin D is often referred to as ‘the sunshine vitamin’ because it can be synthesised by the body from the skin’s exposure to sunlight. However, it can also be absorbed from some foods including oily fish, eggs, fortified cereals and powdered milk.

In 2016, health officials from Public Health England and the Welsh Government began recommending people get 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day – 400 IU – through their diet or supplements.

Professor Hywel Williams, director of the National Institute for Health Research technology assessment programme that funded the study, says in a statement: “The result … brings together evidence from several other studies from over the world and is an important contribution to reducing uncertainties on whether vitamin D is helpful for asthma – a common condition that impacts on many thousands of people worldwide.”

There are 5.4 million people in the UK with asthma – around 1 in 11 people.

‘One piece of a jigsaw’

Commenting on the findings in an emailed statement, Dr Pooja Takhar, research manager at Asthma UK, says: “Vitamin D is a promising area of research as previous studies have also shown similar potential benefits of vitamin D supplements for people with asthma. However, this is only one piece of a very large jigsaw and more evidence is needed, particularly in people with severe asthma to prove whether vitamin D does reduce asthma attacks.

“In the UK, somebody has an asthma attack every 10 seconds leading to 3 deaths a day.

“Years of underfunding in research means that treatment breakthroughs have been very limited in the last few decades. We welcome more research in this area.”

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