Thursday, May 13, 2010

Get some fighting fun in the sun

THE late guru of aikido Morihei Ueshiba spent each morning greeting the sun for hours on end soaking up tons of vitamin D— that may explain how an elderly still kept himself trim and in top fighting form.

Ueshiba had fun and saved on funds by basking in the sun. Asthma sufferers can take a cue as recent findings point to low levels of vitamin D are associated with lower lung function and greater medication use in children with asthma.

In a paper trotted in the April online edition of the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, researchers at National Jewish Health bared such findings and added that vitamin D enhances the activity of corticosteroids, the most effective controller medication for asthma.

Cite the researchers: "Asthmatic children in our study who had low levels of vitamin D were more allergic, had poorer lung function and used more medications. Conversely, our findings suggest that vitamin D supplementation may help reverse steroid resistance in asthmatic children and reduce the effective dose of steroids needed for our patients."

Medical records of 100 pediatric asthma patients were gleaned and it turned out nearly half of them had poor vitamin D levels, that is, under 30 nanograms per milliliter of blood (ng/mL). Seventeen patients were downright deficient in vitamin D or below 20 ng/mL, It turned out that most people are lack vitamin D these days—the deficiencies were similar to vitamin D levels found in the general population.

Those lacking in vitamin D had higher levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), a marker of allergy—they were beset with more allergies as evidenced by a skin prick test. Allergies to certain indoor allergens, such as dander and house dust mite, were higher in patients with low vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D also translated to scant amounts of air a person can exhale in one second that points to weak lung function. Patients low in vitamin D also took more medications to cope with symptoms.

"It could be that lower vitamin D levels contribute to increasing asthma severity, which requires more corticosteroid therapy. Or, it may be that vitamin D directly affects steroid activity, and that low levels of vitamin D make the steroids less effective, thus requiring more medication for the same effect," according to the study.

The researchers performed a series of laboratory experiments that indicated vitamin D enhances the action of corticosteroids. They cultured some immune cells with the corticosteroid dexamethasone alone and others with vitamin D first, then dexamethasone. The vitamin D significantly increased the effectiveness of dexamethasone. In one experiment vitamin D and dexamethasone together were more effective than 10 times as much dexamethasone alone.

The researchers also incubated immune-system cells for 72 hours with a staphylococcal toxin to induce corticosteroid resistance. Vitamin D restored the activity of dexamethasone.

"Our work suggests that vitamin D enhances the anti-inflammatory function of corticosteroids. If future studies confirm these findings vitamin D may help asthma patients achieve better control of their respiratory symptoms with less medication," they noted.

An earlier paper from the National Jewish Health showed that low levels of vitamin D in adult asthma patients are associated with lower lung function and reduced responsiveness to corticosteroids.

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