TUESDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Vitamin D supplements don't seem to help most patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a new study by Belgian investigators.
Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two main forms of COPD, and many sufferers have both. The condition makes it hard for people to breathe.
Since most COPD patients are vitamin D deficient and vitamin D helps fight inflammation, the hope was that high doses of the sunshine vitamin would reduce the number of severe flare-ups ("exacerbations") that can land patients in the hospital, researchers said.
"There are studies showing that patients with vitamin D deficiency are more susceptible to different inflammatory, infectious and autoimmune diseases, and most likely COPD," said lead investigator Dr. Wim Janssens, from the respiratory division at University Hospital Gasthuisberg in Leuven.
However, this study found only a limited benefit from vitamin D supplementation, he said.
"Vitamin D restoration to normal levels in COPD patients does not reduce the number of exacerbations, does not reduce the infections and inflammation," Janssens said.
However, it had an effect on patients with the lowest vitamin D levels, he said. "These patients had benefit from supplementation in terms of exacerbations," he said.
"But this does not allow us to conclude that we need to give all COPD patients these high doses of vitamin D; it just strengthens us in the idea that severe deficiency many enhance inflammation in COPD," Janssens said.
"New studies are needed to confirm what we found," he added.
The report was published in the Jan. 17 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
For the study, Janssens' team randomly assigned 182 patients with moderate to very severe COPD to 100,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D supplements or placebos
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