Vitamin D, also known as 'sunshine vitamin', is extremely important for our overall health. According health experts, vitamin D helps in absorption of essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphate. Additionally, the sunshine vitamin is known to facilitate weight loss, reduce the symptoms of depression and keep a check on the body's overall functionality. If the findings of the recent study, published in the journal Thorax, are to be believed, consuming vitamin D supplements may reduce the risk of serious lung attacks in some Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients.
The study was conducted by the researchers from Queen Mary University of London, where they found various health benefits of consuming vitamin D supplements. While the sunshine vitamin is also known to improve bone health, it was revealed in the previous studies that it also protects against colds, flu and asthma attacks, and helps in losing weight and brain development in malnourished children.
As per the latest study, the researchers found that consuming vitamin D supplements led to a 45 percent reduction in lung attacks among COPD patients who were deficient in vitamin D; however, no benefits were seen for the patients with higher vitamin D levels.
COPD describes a number of lung conditions, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, where a person's airways become inflamed, making it harder to breathe 1. Almost all COPD deaths are due to lung attacks (termed 'exacerbations') in which symptoms worsen acutely. These are often triggered by viral upper respiratory infections – the type that causes the common cold.
The disease affects more than 170 million people worldwide, and caused an estimated 3.2 million deaths in 2015.
Lead researcher Professor Adrian Martineau said: "New treatments are urgently needed to prevent COPD attacks. Our study shows that giving supplements to vitamin D-deficient COPD patients nearly halves their rate of potentially fatal attacks."
"Vitamin D supplementation is safe, and it costs just a few pence to supplement a person for a year – so this is a potentially highly cost-effective treatment that could be targeted at those who have low vitamin D levels following routine testing," added Martineau.
The vitamin D supplements that were given orally to the patients reduced the rate of, both moderate and severe, COPD exacerbations with low vitamin D levels. Doses of vitamin D ranged from 30 micrograms daily to 2500 micrograms monthly. Supplementation did not influence the proportion of participants experiencing serious adverse events, indicating that it was safe.
The vitamin D supplements given to patients with higher levels of vitamin D did not reduce their risk of COPD attacks. Therefore, the researchers highlighted the fact that this would be a targeted therapy, with doctors first testing vitamin D levels in COPD patients who experience frequent attacks.