By TAP Integrative

Asthma is a dangerous condition whose prevalence is on the rise in the United States. More than 18 million American adults and 7 million American children suffer from the condition, which is characterized by repeated exacerbations of breathlessness, chest tightness, wheezing and cough. These exacerbations are the major cause of morbidity and mortality in asthmatics.

Some studies have found that inadequate vitamin D status is associated with increased risk of asthma exacerbations. Research has shown that supplementing with vitamin D can prevent exacerbations and improve symptom control—both independently and in combination with corticosteroids. However, meta-analyses including only double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials of vitamin D as an asthma intervention are lacking.

Researchers aimed to fill that gap with a 2016 meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The objective of the review was to evaluate the efficacy of vitamin D—administered by any route and at any dose—in reducing severe asthma exacerbations and improving control of symptoms. For the primary analysis, the authors selected seven trials that included 435 children and 658 adults. Of those, they analyzed one trial involving 22 children and two trials including 658 adults to determine the rate of exacerbations that required systemic corticosteroids. The trials ranged in length from four to 12 months.

The findings showed that vitamin D administration reduced the rate of severe exacerbations. It did not have an effect on the risk of serious adverse events nor on measures of asthma control. In one of the trials, two participants—one taking low-dose and one taking high-dose vitamin D—experienced hypercalciuria. No other adverse effects were reported.

This meta-analysis provides modest evidence that vitamin D may reduce severe asthma exacerbations. However, it’s unclear whether the effects are limited to people with low vitamin D status. Further research is necessary to determine that, as well as whether children and people with frequent severe exacerbations (two groups underrepresented in this sample) will benefit from vitamin D supplementation.


Reference

Martineau AR, Cates CJ, Urashima M, et al. Vitamin D for the management of asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Sep 5;9:CD011511. [Epub ahead of print]


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