PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Can a vitamin help asthma?

“It’s a potentially natural treatment for asthma that would be very inexpensive. Vitamin D is one of the least expensive vitamins out there,” says Dr. Sally Wenzel, a pulmonologist at UPMC.

About one in three people have a low vitamin D level. Local asthma researchers want to see if vitamin D along with inhaled steroids will help decrease symptoms. The thought is that steroids don’t work as well if vitamin D levels are low.

Vitamin D seems to play in controlling inflammation, as shown in other studies.

“There are only about 30 or so in asthma and ours is certainly going to be the biggest clinical trial worldwide to be done to look at the anti-inflammatory and anti-asthmatic effects of vitamin D,” says Dr. Wenzel.

The University of Pittsburgh is looking for 50 patients.

“We are looking for people who are on low to moderate doses of inhaled steroids, the gold standard treatment for asthma, sometimes in combination with other drugs too, that’s okay, who still have some symptoms of asthma,” Dr. Wenzel says.

Jennifer Chamberlin knows the symptoms of asthma well.

“It starts with coughing, and progresses to some wheezing,” describes the McKees Rocks woman.

Exercising, cut grass, even dusting will set it off. She has heard about the trial and is thinking about enrolling.

“Somebody did it for me. In order to get approval for the drugs I currently take, some asthmatic had gone through tests to have that the drugs approved,” she explains.

In the study, some will randomly get vitamin D, some will get a placebo.

“I’d be fine with that. Somebody has to,” says Chamberlain. “It’s the only way they’re going to know if it will truly work or if it’s just something they want to work.”

In the end, it may turn out that vitamin D doesn’t help everyone, and that’s useful information, too.

“Asthma’s probably not a single disease. Asthma is probably different diseases and there’s probably a subgroup in there that responds,” says Dr. Wenzel.

The University of Pittsburgh is one of nine centers across the country taking part in this study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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PubMed Health: Asthma
National Institutes of Health: Vitamin D Fact Sheet
University Of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute

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