Asthma sufferers may benefit more from inhaling vitamin D than the steroids usually prescribed for the condition. A new study from the U.K. identifies a mechanism through which the vitamin can significantly reduce asthma symptoms and suggests it may offer a new method of treatment. The research was noted in Stone Hearth Newsletters.
The number of asthma cases has more than doubled since 1980, according to the National Institutes of Health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 18.9 million adults and 7.1 million children have asthma. Approximately 5,500 persons die from the condition each year, and rates have increased over the past 20 years.
The new study focused on IL-17A, a natural chemical the helps defend the body against infection but also tends to exacerbate asthma and reduce responsiveness to steroids when produced in large amounts. Researchers found that patients with asthma had much higher levels of IL-17A than those without asthma, and patients with steroid resistant asthma expressed the highest levels of IL-17A. Further research showed that vitamin D significantly reduced the production of IL-17A in cells from all patients studied.
“The results therefore demonstrate that vitamin D could potentially provide an effective add-on treatment for all asthma sufferers, reducing the amount of steroid-based medicines prescribed,” according to a release.
“These findings are very exciting as they show that vitamin D could one day be used not only to treat people with steroid resistant asthma but also to reduce the doses of steroids in other asthma patients, reducing the risk of harmful side effects,” said Catherine Hawrylowicz, lead researcher and King's college professor, in a release. “The results are so positive that we are testing this in a clinical trial in steroid resistant asthma patients to further research the possibilities of Vitamin D as a potential treatment.”
The study, published this month in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, adds to the body of research touting vitamin's powers. Recent studies have suggested vitamin boosts immunity, improves muscles and is a key to healthy kidneys.