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The Use of Vitamin D for Asthma

written by: Saoirse OMara • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 1/11/2011

It is widely known that vitamin D has positive effects for bone growth and maintenance, but have you ever heard of the use of vitamin D for asthma?

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    Why Vitamin D for Asthma?

    Where is the connection between asthma and vitamin D? Research at National Jewish Health has shown that low vitamin D levels correspond to worse asthma control. According to them, the tested children who had low vitamin D levels needed more medication and had poorer lung functions than those whose vitamin D levels were high.

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    How Can Vitamin D Help?

    National Jewish Health names two possible explanations. First of all, it may be that insufficient vitamin D levels worsen asthma, thus increasing the allergic and inflammatory reactions. Secondly, higher vitamin D levels might improve the effects of steroids and other asthma medications which would mean that an increase in vitamin D levels can help towards needing less medication. Apparently, the use of corticosteroids and vitamin D combined are more effective than ten times the amount of corticosteroids alone.

    With that knowledge, they suggest that people should watch a sufficient daily intake of vitamin D.

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    How Much Vitamin D is Recommended?

    The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has raised the recommended daily intake to 600 International Units (IU) for children and adults up to 70 while older people need an additional 200 IU per day (formerly 200 IU up to 50, 400 IU from 51 to 70 and 600 IU for people older than 70). The new upper limit has been put at 4,000 IU. Within those limits, vitamin D intake is believed to be safe.

    Many other researchers have the opinion that Americans should take much more vitamin D. According to them, 800 to 1,000 IU should be the daily minimum while anything close to 2,000 IU was an optimal dose.

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    Where Can Vitamin D Be Found?

    The highest amount of vitamin D can be found in sea fish. Other sources of this vitamin are dairy products and mushrooms. However, the greatest source of vitamin D is – sunlight! The human body is able to build vitamin D with the help of sunlight, so those people who seldom get out into the sun are at the highest risk to suffer from low vitamin D levels. Only about 10 to 20 % of our daily need is met with food.

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    Do Scientists Agree on the Positive Effects of Vitamin D for Asthma?

    No, they don’t. IOM, for example, has the opinion that vitamin D isn’t the “cure it all" other scientists claim. They agree that vitamin D has positive effects on bone growth and maintenance, but they claim that all the other positive effects, including those on asthma, aren’t sufficiently proved.

    National Jewish Health, on the other hand, claims their findings show a connection between vitamin D levels and severity of asthma as well as the amount of medication needed.

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    Resources

    Science Daily: Low Vitamin D Levels Associated With More Asthma Symptoms and Medication Use – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100415143906.htm

    Harvard Health Publications: Vitamin D Recommendations – http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-d-recommendations/

    Focus Online: Unterschätzter Schutzschild – http://www.focus.de/gesundheit/gesundleben/vorsorge/news/tid-11437/vitamin-d-unterschaetzter-schutzschild_aid_324211.html