Science Update

Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of asthma attacks

The incidence of asthma has become more and more prevalent these days. While there is no known cure many patients currently manage their asthma with medication and by avoiding allergens and other triggers. 

According to a recent article published in the journal Allergy assessing and then increasing vitamin D levels accordingly could actually help manage asthma attacks. Researchers analyzed the medical records of approximately four million members of Clalit Health Services Israel's largest health care provider. Among those vitamin D levels of approximately 308000 people were measured over the course of four years. It was discovered that asthma patients with a vitamin D deficiency were 25% more likely than other asthmatics to have had at least one recent flare-up. 

"Vitamin D has significant immunomodulatory effects and as such was believed to have an effect on asthma - an immunologically mediated disease" said Dr. Confino-Cohen one of the doctors who conducted the study. "But most of the existing data regarding vitamin D and asthma came from the pediatric population and was inconsistent. Our present study is unique because the study population of young adults is very large and 'uncontaminated' by other diseases."

While no significant association was seen between vitamin D and diagnosed asthma itself this study showed that vitamin D-deficient asthmatics were at a higher risk of an asthma attack demonstrating the link between vitamin D asthma and the beneficial role this vitamin can play in helping to reduce exacerbations.

Asthma patients who experience recurrent exacerbations should have their vitamin D levels checked and supplement when necessary as it appears that increasing vitamin D levels is something we can easily do to help improve these patients' quality of life.

While most of the vitamin D in our bodies comes from exposure to the sun many of us need to obtain vitamin D from other sources. Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent for several reasons. Many people avoid the sun due to the dangers of overexposure. In addition most of us spend a great deal of time inside under fluorescent lights and away from natural light. Also depending on what latitude you live at and the time of year you may not be able to get adequate vitamin D from the sun. Still for those who spend a lot of time in the sun most have eighty percent of their skin covered preventing optimal vitamin D absorption.

Source: R. Confino-Cohen I. Brufman A. Goldberg B. S. Feldman. Vitamin D asthma prevalence and asthma exacerbations: a large adult population-based study. Allergy 2014; DOI: 10.1111/all.12508