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Can vitamin D protect against asthma?

Over 6 million children in the U.S. suffer from asthma, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is approximately 12% of all children in our country. However, the prevalence of asthma amongst children is not evenly distributed between distinct demographics. Instead, minority children, those who are obese, and those who reside in urban locations are more likely to suffer from the condition.

New research, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health and conducted by scientists at Johns Hopkins University, has focused on how to protect children in urban environments from asthma. The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, specifically investigated the potential of vitamin D - which has been increasingly recognized as a vitamin in which people across the U.S. are deficient - to affect these children’s susceptibility to asthma and asthma symptoms.

The researchers studied 120 children in Baltimore who had been diagnosed with asthma, about 40 of whom were also obese. The scientists evaluated the children 4 separate times over a 9-month period, looking at the children’s asthma symptoms, the level of air pollution in their homes, and the amount of vitamin D in their blood.

The results of the study showed that for obese children with asthma, low vitamin D levels were associated with higher risks of being impacted by indoor air pollution. In other words, obese children who lived in homes that had the highest levels of air pollution had fewer asthma symptoms if their vitamin D levels were higher.

Future research should help to clarify how exactly vitamin D may confer its respiratory benefits, but experts agree that it is likely to work through its antioxidant properties and to thereby affect pathways of the immune system. For now, they argue that our growing knowledge of the link between vitamin D and asthma amongst obese children in urban communities justifies higher levels of vitamin D intake. While vitamin D levels can be improved through sunlight, consuming dietary supplements and food high in vitamin D, such as fatty fish and milk, may be a more reliable way to increase vitamin D levels.

Author
Dr. Summit Shah

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