People with asthma can cut the risk of dangerous attacks by adding a readily available dietary supplement – vitamin D – to their daily routine.
This is NOT to say Vitamin D should replace a prescribed course of medication, nor should it be taken instead of a rescue inhaler. But when it comes to preventative care, it may have promise.
The new study, collecting data among nearly 1,000 participants across seven controlled trials, found that supplementing regular asthma medication with a dose of vitamin D could reduce the risk of asthma attacks by up to one-third among otherwise healthy people.
Additionally, taking vitamin D could limit the most dangerous attacks – those requiring hospitalization or emergency treatment – in half, according to researchers from Queen Mary University London in England.
The study comes as good news to millions of asthma sufferers, who may have found an effective new treatment supplement. Serious asthma attacks result in some 2 million emergency room visits in the United States every year, and the condition also results in thousands of deaths per year.
Now researchers think many of those cases can be prevented.
Almost all serious cases of asthma result from an acute worsening of the condition, also known as an exacerbation, when a person’s airway becomes constricted, leading to a life-threatening situation.
Combining vitamin D with regular asthma treatment, such as a steroid inhaler, has shown to severely limit those types of events from occurring.
“Vitamin D supplementation reduced the rate of asthma exacerbation requiring treatment with systemic corticosteroids among all participants,” write the study authors in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
Perhaps the best news is that the improved health benefits come with a low price tag, making the combo treatment accessible for just about everyone.
“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,” write the researchers.
Providing Extra Benefits
The current study “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,” said Hywel Williams, Director of England’s National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment Program.
The researchers discovered that the people who benefited the most from vitamin D supplements were those who had low levels of the important vitamin to begin with. Those with low levels of vitamin D saw a 55 percent reduction in dangerous attacks that required a steroid tablet or injection – up from 30 percent overall.
“These results add to the ever growing body of evidence that vitamin D can support immune function as well as bone health,” said lead researcher Dr. Adrian Martineau.
The researchers believe vitamin D supplements check off two key boxes that may lead to widespread use – safety and affordability.
“Vitamin D is safe to take and relatively inexpensive so supplementation represents a potentially cost-effective strategy to reduce this problem,” added Martineau.
That said, the researchers have some more work to do to take a closer look at the impact of vitamin D on children; most of the prior studies had targeted adults.
“Our results are largely based on data from adults with mild to moderate asthma; children and adults with severe asthma were relatively under-represented in the dataset,” said first author Dr. David Jolliffe, professor at Queen Mary University London.
“Further clinical trials are ongoing internationally, and we hope to include data from them in a future analysis to determine whether the promise of today’s results is confirmed in an even larger and more diverse group of patients,” added Jolliffe.