Following interesting data suggesting a link between vitamin D (the 'sunshine vitamin' manufactured by our skin when we are in the sun) and asthma, a group of researchers looked more closely at the relationship between asthma attacks and vitamin D.
No large studies of vitamin D supplement use in the treatment of asthma have been conducted. So the researchers identified a number of smaller studies - 7 involving 435 children and 2 covering 658 adults. All of the studies tested vitamin D use against a placebo. Participants continued to use their standard medications, and suffered from mild to moderate asthma as opposed to severe asthma.
In this meta-study, the team found "high-quality" evidence that vitamin D reduces hospital visits due to acute asthma attacks from 6 per 100 to around 3 per 100 and also halved the number of asthma attacks needing treatment with oral steroids.
Although the study did not find an improvement in lung function or daily asthma symptoms, it does provide high-quality evidence that vitamin D does no harm. Lead study author Dr. Adrian Martineau notes, "We found that taking a vitamin D supplement in addition to standard asthma treatment significantly reduced the risk of severe asthma attached, without causing side effects. This is an exciting result, but some caution is warranted."
Researchers say more study is needed, so talk to your doctor and never stop medications or leave emergency inhalers behind in hopes that a walk on the beach might be the 'cure'. But take a stroll in the sunshine - your lungs may thank you and your spirits won't be harmed.
Asthmatics living in northern climes or not consuming fortified dairy or bread products should talk to their doctor about whether a vitamin D supplement makes sense.
Read in the Cochrane Library to learn more about the study on
Vitamin D for the management of asthma.