The randomised trial data, published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, is the first clinical trial to investigate the impact of vitamin D supplementation on severity and duration of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms – finding that supplementation with the vitamin had a ‘dramatic’ impact on COPD patients who were vitamin D deficient at the start of the trial.
Led by Professor Adrian Martineau from Queen Mary University of London, the team performed a randomised clinical trial in more than 200 patients with COPD, with results showing more than a 40% reduction in flare-ups in those with low vitamin D levels at baseline.
However, the ‘striking’ reduction in flare-ups was not seen among patients who had a higher vitamin D status at the start of the trial, said the team.
"Flare-ups of chronic bronchitis and emphysema (COPD) can be debilitating for patients, sometimes leading to hospitalisation and even death,” explained Martineau. “Our research has shown how an inexpensive vitamin supplement can significantly reduce the risk of flare-ups for patients who are vitamin D deficient, which could have a major public health benefit.”
“Our findings suggest that patients with COPD should have their vitamin D status tested and should begin taking supplements if their levels are found to be low,” he said.
The NIHR-funded randomised trial included 240 patients with COPD in and around London.
Half of the patients (122) received vitamin D3 supplements (6 x 2-monthly oral doses of 3mg) and the other half (118) received an equivalent placebo. The risk, severity and duration of flare-ups was then compared between the two groups.
The team found that vitamin D supplementation modestly reduced the severity and duration of flare-up symptoms in all patients in the vitamin D group - regardless of their baseline vitamin D levels, compared to the placebo group.
However, the results were far more significant for those who were suffering from a low vitamin D status at the start, said the team.
Indeed, they noted that vitamin D3 supplementation protected against moderate or severe exacerbation, but not upper respiratory infections, in patients with baseline 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of less than 50 nmol/L.
“Our findings suggest that correction of vitamin D deficiency in patients with COPD reduces the risk of moderate or severe exacerbation,” said Martineau and colelagues.
Source: Lancet Respiratory Medicine
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/S2213-2600(14)70255-3
“Vitamin D3 supplementation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (ViDiCO): a multicentre, double-blind, randomised controlled trial”
Authors: Adrian R Martineau, et al