Vitamin D Deficiency Impairs Lung Development

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February 1, 2011

Vitamin D deficiency impairs lung development

Vitamin D deficiency impairs lung development

A report published online on January 28, 2011 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine describes an association between vitamin D deficiency in mice and reduced lung structure and function.

"The aim of this study was to determine if vitamin D deficiency results in altered lung function and/or structure as a potential explanation for the association between vitamin D and chronic respiratory disease," explained lead author Graeme Zosky, PhD, of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Subiaco, Australia. "Specifically, we aimed to determine if vitamin D deficiency has an influence on lung growth as indicated by a decrease in lung volume. We also wanted to determine if the deficiency alters the mechanical properties of the lung tissue due to changes in the structure of the lung."

Dr Zosky and colleagues compared lung responses of two week old mice born to mothers that were deficient or replete in vitamin D. They found a reduction in lung volume in the absence of a significant decrease in body length and weight, accompanied by functional deficits not entirely explained by the observed reduction in the volume of the lungs of animals in the vitamin deficient group. "Due to the nature of this study, we were not able to determine whether the differences in lung size and function we observed in the deficient offspring were the result of their own deficient status or as a consequence of developmental deficits that occurred in utero due to the mother's deficiency," Dr Zosky noted.

"For the first time, we have demonstrated a direct role for vitamin D in causing decreased lung function in the absence of known confounders such as physical inactivity, confirming the assertion by epidemiological studies that there is a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and lung function," he announced. "The differences we observed in lung volume and lung mechanics, which were substantial and physiologically relevant, raise serious concerns regarding the increased prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in communities around the world. The results also raise concerns about the potential this deficiency may have on lung health, and in particular, the potential impact deficiency may have on the susceptibility to obstructive lung disease."

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Health Concern

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive and debilitating lung disease. The disease is characterized by irreversible airflow limitation in the lungs. The umbrella of COPD encompasses the following conditions:

  • Emphysema, in which the alveoli in the lungs, the tiny sacs where oxygen transfer takes place, are destroyed and enlarged
  • Chronic bronchitis, or the permanent inflammation of airways, accompanied by a chronic cough

COPD cannot be cured, in part because it usually is the result of years of development. According to the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, effective COPD management has the following goals (Global Strategy 2004):

  • Preventing disease progression
  • Relieving symptoms
  • Improving exercise tolerance and health status
  • Preventing and treating complications and exacerbations
  • Reducing mortality

The following nutrients have been shown to restore antioxidant capacity and help reduce inflammation:

  • Vitamin A—25,000 international units (IU) daily
  • Vitamin C—3000 milligrams (mg) daily
  • Vitamin E—400 IU daily (with at least 200 mg gamma tocopherol)
  • NAC—600 mg, three times daily
  • CoQ10—200 to 400 mg daily
  • Omega-3 fatty acids—1000 mg DHA and 1400 mg EPA daily
  • Gamma-linolenic acid—900 to 1800 mg daily
  • L-Carnitine—2000 to 3000 mg daily
  • Bromelain—500 mg several times daily on an empty stomach
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