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Asthma sufferers could halve their risk of suffering a severe attack which requires hospital simply by taking a vitamin D supplement, a new study suggests.
Researchers at Queen Mary University of London found that the number of people visiting A&E because of an attack dropped from six per cent to three per cent in people taking vitamin pills.
There was also a 30 per cent reduction in the number of asthma sufferers requiring treatment or steroids for attacks.
The report authors say supplements are a cheap and effective way of cutting down on potentially deadly attacks.
"These results add to the ever growing body of evidence that vitamin D can support immune function as well as bone health," said lead researcher Professor Adrian Martineau.
“Vitamin D is safe to take and relatively inexpensive so supplementation represents a potentially cost-effective strategy to reduce this problem.”
Around 5.4 million people in Britain need treatment for asthma, a respiratory condition which kills three people each day.
Asthma deaths arise primarily as symptoms worsen, often due to during viral upper respiratory infections.
Vitamin D is thought to protect against such attacks by boosting immune responses to respiratory viruses and dampening down harmful airway inflammation.
Although the vitamin is produced in the body when exposed to sunlight, the researchers said it was difficult for people in Britain to soak up enough sunshine and recommended pills.
"In the UK, sunlight only contains enough UVB to stimulate production of vitamin D in the skin between April and October – in Winter and early Spring, it won’t provide any vitamin D," added Prof Martineau.
"UVB is also a risk factor for skin cancer of course – so from a safety perspective it makes sense to be careful with exposure to sunlight, and keep vitamin D levels up during winter and early spring by taking a regular supplement."
The new study involved 955 participants who were followed over a year and there vitamin D intake compared to the attacks they suffered, and nobody experienced adverse side effects.
Professor Hywel Williams, Director of the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme, said: “The results of this NIHR-funded study brings together evidence from several other studies from over the world and is an important contribution to reducing uncertainties on whether Vitamin D is helpful for asthma – a common condition that impacts on many thousands of people worldwide.”
Dr David Jolliffe from QMUL, first author on the paper, added: “Our results are largely based on data from adults with mild to moderate asthma: children and adults with severe asthma were relatively under-represented in the dataset, so our findings cannot necessarily be generalised to these patient groups at this stage.
“Further clinical trials are on-going internationally, and we hope to include data from them in a future analysis to determine whether the promise of today’s results is confirmed in an even larger and more diverse group of patients.”
This material was created exclusively for WorldHealthNews project by Michael Kelly.
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