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Study: Vitamin D may benefit asthmatics

Category: Vitamin D Deficiency-Diagnosis and Treatment

The benefits of maintaining high levels of vitamin D in the body have long been touted - it improves immunity, stabilizes the nervous system and decreases the risk of developing high blood pressure. But recent clinical tests reveal that that the sunshine vitamin may also play a role in the lung function of asthmatics.

According to a study published in the January 28 online edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, asthmatics with higher levels of vitamin D respond better to treatments than their counterparts with low vitamin D levels, Health Day reports.

A team of researchers at National Jewish Health in Denver measured the vitamin D levels of 54 asthmatics and assessed their lung function, airway hyper-responsiveness and reaction to a steroid treatment.

Blood tests found that asthmatics with levels of the nutrient below 30 nongrams per milliliter had an airway hyper-responsiveness that was almost double the reading of patients with more than 30 ng/ml.

Lower levels of vitamin D were also linked to a worse response to steroid therapy and a higher production of the allergen TNF-alpha, leading researchers to believe the sunshine vitamin could play a role in controlling inflammation in the lungs, according to the news source.

Dr Michael Holick, director of the Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory at the Boston University School of Medicine, told the news provider, "It's pretty clear that you need a minimum of 1,400 and up to 2,000 international units a day [of vitamin D], and if your are obese, you probably need at least one and a half to two times as much because of the fat sequesters in the vitamin."

He added, "We now recognize that you can take up to 10,000 IUs a day and not worry about any untoward toxicity."

As for asthmatics, the study's lead researcher Dr E. Rand Sutherland commented to Health Day that "there is a potential that restoring normal vitamin D levels in people with asthma may help improve their asthma."
Whether vitamin D supplements will help asthmatics is not yet known, added Sutherland

Controlling Asthma

While scientists work on establishing the link between asthma and vitamin D, and attempt to develop other preventive measures for controlling the condition, a team of researchers at the University of Cincinnati are working to uncover the causes of allergies and asthma.

According to a study published in the December issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, about 36 percent of 3-year-olds who were exposed to high levels of traffic pollution and indoor endotoxin as infants experienced persistent wheezing later in life.

"There is a clear synergistic effect from co-exposure to traffic-related particles and endotoxin above and beyond what you would see with a single exposure that can be connected to persistent wheezing by age 3," said the study's lead author Patrick Ryan, an assistant professor of environmental health at the university.

The scientists caution that wheezing is an early warning sign of asthma.

Emerging diagnostic testing

Should an individual recognize warning signs of asthma in themselves or a loved one, a new test may help them quickly diagnose the condition.

According to researchers at the Ohio State University Medical Center, the eucapnic voluntary hyperventilation test, which has regularly been used to diagnose athletes with exercise-induced asthma, is also applicable for the general public.

They commented that the test is useful for early diagnoses so that doctors may quickly provide "personalized therapeutic treatment" for patients.

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, about 34.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma by a health professional during their lives.

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