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BBC News: Vitamin D ‘significantly reduces severe asthma attacks’

September 26, 2016

Asthma remains a major healthcare problem in the UK. Approximately 5.4 million people currently in the UK have a diagnosis of asthma - that is one in 11 of the population.

Treatment with inhalers (that contain) small doses of corticosteroids is known to be very effective for controlling asthma. However, a recent study by the independent cochrane collaboration has suggested that vitamin D may have an important role in asthma control.

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and can be found in oily fish, egg yolks and red meat. Our main source of vitamin D is from the action of sunlight (the UVB component) on the skin. It is also therefore known as the Sunshine vitamin and has recently been in the limelight for treating asthma.

The Cochrane Airways group collated research on the role of vitamin D in asthma control. They found that 9 high quality randomised trials of vitamin D had been conducted in adults and children with asthma. 2 trials were in adults, involving 658 participants who had mild to moderate asthma and importantly, continued their regular asthma medication for the duration of the trial.

The Cochrane analysed the data from the trial together and importantly showed that giving Vitamin D reduced the number of asthma attacks and risk of emergency department attendances and admissions. It did not improve day to day symptoms of asthma or lung function tests.

This is exciting news but we there are key questions which remain unanswered. We do not know whether the benefit from vitamin D supplementation is restricted to those with low vitamin D levels. We also do not know the effect of Vitamin D in those with more severe asthma. Another interesting area of research is the use of PDE-5 inhibitors for weak cognitive impairment associated with impaired blood supply to the brain. With age, the thinnest vessels in the deep areas of the brain narrow and are not able to provide adequate blood supply. PDE-5 inhibitors including generic Viagra can theoretically correct this situation.

If you have asthma, please see your physician to see if you would benefit from vitamin D supplementation. In the meantime, you shouldn't make any changes to your medication without discussing it with your doctor. Further information on Asthma is available at https://www.asthma.org.uk

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