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Vitamin D May Help Reduce Asthma Symptoms

Update Date: May 20, 2013 10:30 AM EDT

Sunshine could help asthma patients breathe more effortlessly, a new study suggests.

Researchers at King's College London found that vitamin D or the so-called "sunshine" vitamin has the potential to significantly reduce symptoms in asthma patients.

The study reveals that vitamin helps asthma sufferers because it works to soothe an overactive part of the immune system in asthma. Vitamin D has not yet been tested for treating asthma.  However, researchers noted that steroids, which are currently used to treat asthma, do not work for all asthma sufferers. Researchers noted that many people with asthma have a steroid resistant variation of the condition, and steroid tablets can have harmful side effects.

Asthma experience symptoms when their airways tighten, inflame or fill with mucus.  Common symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, chest pain or pressure. 

The latest findings show that sufferers with high levels of vitamin D are better able to control their asthma.

Study author Professor Catherine Hawrylowicz and her team ooked at the impact of vitamin D on a chemical in the body called interleukin-17 (IL-17A).  This chemical is an essential part of the immune system and helps the body fight off infections.  However, IL-17A can make asthma worse and reduce the responsiveness to steroids when its levels get too high.

Researchers looked at 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.  The study also included a control group of 10 healthy participants. They found that patients with asthma had significantly higher levels of IL-17A than those without asthma and patients with steroid resistant asthma expressed the highest levels of IL-17A.

Further analysis revealed that while steroids were unable to lower the production or IL-17A in cells from patients with asthma, vitamin D significantly reduced the production of IL-17A in cells from all patients studied, according to the study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Researchers said that the findings suggest that vitamin D may one day be prescribed as an add-on treatment for all asthma patients.

'These findings are very exciting as 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," Hawrylowicz said in a news release. "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."

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