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by Marijana Domazet, Saturday, September 6, 2014 | Categories: Asthma

The relationship between vitamin D and asthma has been receiving increasing attention in the scientific community. In the past five years, studies have looked at how vitamin D (or lack thereof) affects the development of asthma, the persistence of asthma attacks and the treatment of asthmatic symptoms. Here we consider the most recent study that looked at the use of vitamin D in addition to standard treatments.

The study, which was published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, was a case control study. In total 130 participants of varying ages took part. The study included participants who were classified as having mild to moderate asthma. Whilst one of the groups only received the standard treatment that included an inhaler with dry powder, the other group received the standard treatment and additional doses of vitamin D. The participants in this group received an injection of 100,000 units, followed by instructions to take 50,000 units orally on a weekly basis. The researchers then measured the lung functioning of both groups at different time points throughout the life of the study. The main findings indicated that both groups were performing equally well after eight weeks. However, 20 weeks after the study started there were marked differences between the groups. On average, the participants who had been given vitamin D performed 20 percent better than they had at the start of the study. In contrast to that, participants who had been given the standard treatment performed seven percent better. Based on this, the researchers concluded that larger studies are needed to see whether vitamin D could be used as supplementary treatment in the management of asthma symptoms.

These findings are far from surprising as they are pointing in the same direction as previous research. There are a few points from the current study that are worth considering when interpreting the results or when attempting to replicate its findings. One of the flaws is the reliance on self-report of adherence to treatment. The researchers measured the adherence to the treatment via telephone interviews. However, assuming that the adherence (or lack thereof) is equally distributed between the groups, the findings would still hold. Another flaw is that participants were not tested for vitamin D deficiency prior to taking part in the study. Having said that, it is clear that that the researchers were keen to stress the importance of further research. It is also worth noting that this study is one of the few studies within this line of research that included adults.

It is easy to see the appeal of vitamin D as an additional treatment. It is non-invasive and easy to administer. At the same time it is worth mentioning that experts in this field have stressed that the research is still in its early stages and individuals should not start taking vitamin D as a treatment.

We will keep an eye on developments in this field.

Further information can be found here.

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