Vitamin D – Can the sunshine vitamin help reduce asthma attacks?

Ware, L. Evidently Cochrane. Published online: 6 September 2016

What’s the story?

It seems to me that vitamin D – also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ – is very much in the limelight (or should that be sunlight?) right now. Its role in maintaining a healthy skeleton is well known but it may have other important actions. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to an increased risk of asthma attacks in children and adults with asthma. It is thought that vitamin D has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial functions in the lungs, which may explain why it could be beneficial.

What did the Cochrane review find with regard to vitamin D andasthma?

The recent systematic review from the Cochrane Airways Group found nine double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trials of vitamin D in children and adults with asthma, which evaluated the risk of having an asthma attack and/or the level of symptom control. Two studies were in adults and involved 658 participants; seven studies were in children with 435 participants. The studies were conducted in Canada, India, Japan, Poland, UK and USA. Most of the participants had mild to moderate asthma and continued their regular asthma medication for the duration of the trial. The studies lasted from six to twelve months.

High quality evidence showed that giving vitamin D reduced the average number of asthma attacks and the risk of Emergency Department attendances and hospital admissions. These results can be represented diagrammatically :

exacerbations-small-1024x512

Image source: Evidently Cochrane

hospitalisations-small-1024x512

Image source: Evidently Cochrane

There was no evidence to indicate that vitamin D brought about an improvement in lung function tests or in day-to-day symptoms. It was safe at the doses given.

Read the full blog post here

Read the full review here

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