People with very low levels of vitamin D may have worse asthma symptoms than their counterparts with higher levels of the sunshine vitamin, according to the new findings that suggest the vitamin calms the activity of an 'over-active' part of the immune system in people with asthma.
Writing in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the UK-based research team reveal that vitamin D was able to lower the activity interleukin-17, which is strongly implicated in asthma, when it was added to blood samples taken from 28 patients with the condition.
Professor Catherine Hawrylowicz from King's College London, who led the study, said the findings were ‘very exciting’.
"We know people with high levels of vitamin D are better able to control their asthma - that connection is quite striking," said Hawrylowicz.
"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."
Indeed, Hawrylowicz explained that the findings already suggest that supplementation with vitamin D may 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 - so reducing the risk of harmful side effects.
Meanwhile, a team of US-based researchers have suggested that ginger compounds could also be effective in reducing the symptoms of asthma.
The study, led by Elizabeth Townsend from Columbia University, investigated whether purified extracts of ginger that contained specific components of the spicy root could help enhance the relaxing effects of bronchodilators in asthmatic people.
Presenting their findings at the ATS 2013 International Conference, the research team explained that they studied the effects of with three separate components of ginger: 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol or 6-shogaol when exposed to airway smooth muscle (ASM) tissue samples that were caused to contract by exposing them to acetylcholine.
The contracted tissue samples were exposed to three mixtures of the ginger compounds in combination with the β-agonist isoproterenol as well as unadulterated isoproterenol, and the relaxation responses were recorded and compared.
"We demonstrated that purified components of ginger can work synergistically with β-agonists to relax ASM," said Townsend - adding that tissues treated with the combination of purified ginger components and isoproterenol showed significantly greater relaxation than those treated only with isoprotereno.
Indeed, one of the three ginger components, 6-shogaol appeared most effective in increasing the relaxing effects of the β-agonist.
"Taken together, these data show that ginger constituents 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol and 6-shogaol act synergistically with the β-agonist in relaxing ASM, indicating that these compounds may provide additional relief of asthma symptoms when used in combination with β-agonists," Townsend added.