One out of every 12 American children has the condition, which means it affects more than six million kids. Asthma is seen disproportionately among urban minorities, and air pollution can worsen symptoms, including indoor air pollution like that from cigarettes, candles and cooking.
After observing the fact that African-Americans, especially children, have both a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency and a greater prevalence of asthma, researchers decided to explore whether the two conditions interact in some way.
They looked at three factors in 120 school-aged Baltimore children with asthma: the air pollution in their homes, their asthma symptoms, and the levels of vitamin D in their blood. A third of those chosen for the study were also obese. They were all evaluated at the inception of the study and three additional times throughout the nine months that followed.
The researchers discovered that low levels of vitamin D in the blood were related to the damaging respiratory effects caused by indoor air pollution on obese kids who had asthma. In the homes with the highest indoor air pollution, having a higher blood level of vitamin D was linked to fewer symptoms of asthma in obese children.
“What surprised us the most was that the findings of the study showed the effects were most pronounced among obese children,” the study’s lead author, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s Dr. Sonali Bose, said. “This highlights a third factor at play here – the obesity epidemic – and helps bring that risk to light when considering individual susceptibility to asthma.”
The researchers would like to find ways to help these children raise their levels of vitamin D so they can better resist the pollution they’re exposed to. Unfortunately, both those living in urban areas and those with darker skin can struggle to get enough vitamin D as sun exposure is the best source, meaning they’ve got the odds stacked against them dramatically. While dietary supplements are one option, they could also raise their levels somewhat by eating foods like mushrooms and fatty fish.
Meanwhile, a Cochrane Review has found that taking oral vitamin D supplements can reduce severe asthma attacks. The researchers discovered seven trials in children and two studies of adults from across the globe illustrating how vitamin D supplements can reduce the risk of a severe asthma attack that requires emergency attendance or hospital admission by half. It also reduced the rate of asthma attacks that needed to be treated with steroids. All of the studies involved vitamin D3.
Some experts now say that there is enough scientific evidence to justify testing people with asthma for vitamin D deficiencies and treating any that are found in order to reduce the risk of an asthma attack and other asthma-related symptoms like colds and flu.
Asthma attacks can be scary for kids and adults alike, so finding a way to avoid or reduce them is excellent news – especially when that method is something that is natural and affordable. Vitamin D comes from sunlight and natural food sources, driving home the point that nature provides our bodies with what we need for optimum health.
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