It seems that more and more benefits of Vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin’ are being found everyday. Links with diseases like cancer and rickets and now asthma. In recognition of this the NHS guidelines for giving Vitamin D drops to babies changed in July to recommending that they’re given from birth for all breastfed babies (previously it was from 6 months or if mothers were not taking a supplement themselves) and formula or mixed fed babies taking less than 500ml formula. To read more on this see NHS Choices.
Cochrane Reviews look at high quality research trials and bring the evidence together. A newly published Cochrane Review shows evidence that oral supplementation with Vitamin D alongside standard asthma medication is likely to reduce severe asthma attacks.
This week (6th September 2016) these findings were presented at the European Respiratory Society Congress in London.
This is big news as about 300 million people across the globe have asthma!
For children and adults with asthma having a low blood Vitamin D level has been linked to an increased risk of asthma attacks. The good news is that these studies show that an oral vitamin D supplement reduced the risk of severe asthma attacks requiring hospital admission or emergency department attendance from 6% to around 3%. They also found that vitamin D supplementation reduced the rate of asthma attacks needing treatment with steroid tablets.
The authors concluded:
Vitamin D is likely to offer protection against severe asthma attacks. Further trials focusing on children and people who experience frequent severe asthma attacks are needed before definitive clinical recommendations can be made.
It should be noted that these results are based largely on trials in adults. They also found that vitamin D did not improve lung function or day-to-day asthma symptoms at the doses that were tested.
More analysis is currently happening to look at if there is an effect in people with an adequate blood level of Vitamin D level or if it’s just for people with a low level. The results from this should be available in the next few months so watch this space!
Here’s the link to the Cochrane Review.
Although the best source of Vitamin D is production in your skin from sunlight exposure you can also help your body to get more by eating plenty of vitamin D rich foods.
Rich dietary sources of Vitmain D include:
- Oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, pilchards and mackerel
- Egg yolk, meat, offal and milk also contain small amounts (varies during the year)
- Fortified foods including some breakfast cereals, yogurts and margarines and infant formula milk (hence you don’t need to give a supplement if giving more than 500ml per day to a baby).
See the BDA Vitamin D fact sheet for more information.
Healthy Start vitamins contain the appropriate amount of Vitamin D for babies and children. They’re available to purchase at a low cost in some areas and are free to those on a low income throughout the UK. Ask your health visitor of youth ok you may qualify and don’t already get them.
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