Vitamin D supplementation linked to fewer lung disease ‘flare-ups’

By Nathan Gray contact

- Last updated on GMT

Vitamin D supplementation linked to fewer lung disease ‘flare-ups’

Related tags: Vitamin d

Vitamin D supplementation could reduce flare-ups of COPD lung disease by more than 40% in patients who are deficient, say researchers.

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.

Study details

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

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