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Vitamin D found beneficial in treating asthma symptoms

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Asthma, an inflammatory disease of the airways, causes the airways to constrict, Attacks of breathlessness and wheezing can prove to be fatal. Now, according to researchers in the United Kingdom, Vitamin D could help asthma patients breathe more easily.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Scientists at King's College London say that vitamin D has the potential to significantly cut the symptoms of sufferers, saying it may one day be prescribed as a treatment alongside conventional steroids.

The so-called "sunshine" vitamin resulted in lower levels of a natural chemical in the body that aggravates symptoms in asthma patients and cuts the effectiveness of steroids. Severe asthma is typically treated with steroid tablets -- which can lead to harmful side effects.

Many sufferers have a steroid resistant variation of the condition making it even more difficult to treat and putting them at greater risk of hospitalization from severe, even life-threatening, asthma attacks.

A research team of scientists at King's identified a mechanism through which Vitamin D can reduce asthma symptoms. IL -17A is a natural chemical which helps to defend the body against infection, but is also known to worsen asthma and reduce responsiveness to steroids when produced in larger amounts.
 
The team examined the production of IL-17A and levels of the chemical in cells from 18 steroid resistant asthma patients and 10 patients who responded to steroids, as well as a control group of 10 healthy people.

Patients with asthma had much higher levels of IL-17A than those without asthma. Patients with steroid resistant asthma expressed the highest levels of IL-17A.

Further tests proved that while steroids were unable to lower the production of IL-17A in cells from patients with asthma, vitamin D significantly cut the production of IL-17A in cells from all patients studied.

In essence, vitamin D could potentially provide an effective add-on treatment for all asthma sufferers, reducing the amount of steroid-based medicines prescribed.

There is growing evidence that vitamin D deficiency may be responsible for triggering a range of diseases, including several cancers. The human body derives vitamin D from sunlight, although oily fish is a good dietary source.

Professor Catherine Hawrylowicz from the Medical Research Council & Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma at King's, who led the study, said the findings were "very exciting.

"They show that Vitamin D could one day be used not only to treat people with steroid resistant asthma but also to reduce the doses of steroids in other asthma patients, reducing the risk of harmful side effects.

"The results are so positive that we are testing this in a clinical trial in steroid resistant asthma patients to further research the possibilities of vitamin D as a potential treatment," she says. 

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