A recent study entitled “Vitamin D3 supplementation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (ViDiCO): a multicentre, double-blind, randomized controlled trial” reveals that Vitamin D supplements can protect against chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations. The study was published in the journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by chronically poor airflow with exacerbating symptoms occurring over time, including shortness of breath, cough and mucus production. According to the American Lung Association, 13 million adults in America were estimated to suffer from COPD in 2011 alone. These patients frequently exhibit deficiency in Vitamin D levels. Since Vitamin D has immune-regulatory and anti-inflammatory functions, its deficiency is associated with increased risk for infections in the respiratory tract (particularly the upper region), which are one of the main causes of COPD exacerbations.
In this study, a team of researchers at the Queen Mary University of London determined if supplementing Vitamin D (namely Vitamin D3, also known as colecalciferol) in adults suffering from COPD would decrease both exacerbations and upper respiratory infections. Adult patients with COPD were randomly divided into two groups – a group received oral doses of 3 mg vitamin D3 (n=122) while the second group was treated with placebo control (n=118), both during a one-year treatment. The team of researchers found that while supplementing Vitamin D3 to patients deficient for Vitamin D significantly improved the time for the occurrence of the first exacerbations (moderate to severe), as well as its duration, this benefit was not observed in patients that registered higher levels of Vitamin D at the beginning of the trial. The risk for upper respiratory infection was not altered with Vitamin D3 supplementation, independently of baseline vitamin D levels.
The authors suggest that their findings – the first showing how vitamin D administered as a supplement impacts on both severity and duration of COPD symptoms – highlight that correcting Vitamin D deficiency in COPD patients is an additional therapy approach to decrease the risk for severe exacerbations.
Professor Adrian Martineau, Queen Mary University of London, and study first author commented, “Flare-ups of chronic bronchitis and emphysema (COPD) can be debilitating for patients, sometimes leading to hospitalization and even death. 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.”