Public Release:  Vitamin D reduces lung disease flare-ups by over 40 percent

Queen Mary, University of London

Vitamin D supplements can reduce COPD lung disease flare-ups by over 40% in patients with a vitamin D deficiency - according to new research from Queen Mary University of London. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) includes conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and is thought to affect more than 3 million people in the UK.

The NIHR-funded randomised trial, published in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine, included 240 patients with COPD in and around London. Half of the patients (122) received vitamin D supplements (6 x 2-monthly oral doses of 3mg) and the other half (118) received an equivalent placebo. The risk, severity and duration of flare-ups was then compared between the two groups.

Flare-ups (also referred to as 'exacerbations') are when a COPD patient's usual symptoms (coughing, excess mucus, shortness of breath, tightness in chest) get worse and stay worse, sometimes resulting in hospitalisation.

Patients with a vitamin D deficiency benefited dramatically from taking the supplements but the striking reduction in flare-ups was not seen among patients who had a higher vitamin D status at the start of the trial. However, researchers did find vitamin D supplementation modestly reduced the severity and duration of flare-up symptoms in all patients in the vitamin D group, regardless of their baseline vitamin D levels, compared to the placebo group.

This is the first clinical trial to investigate the impact of vitamin D supplementation on severity and duration of COPD symptoms. One previous trial has linked vitamin D to a reduction in COPD disease flare ups but this was limited to patients with very severe conditions. This trial is larger and studied patients with a much broader spectrum of diseases, ranging from mild to severe.

Professor Adrian Martineau, Lead Author, Queen Mary University of London, comments: "Flare-ups of chronic bronchitis and emphysema (COPD) can be debilitating for patients, sometimes leading to hospitalisation and even death. Our research has shown how an inexpensive vitamin supplement can significantly reduce the risk of flare-ups for patients who are vitamin D deficient, which could have a major public health benefit. Our findings suggest that patients with COPD should have their vitamin D status tested and should begin taking supplements if their levels are found to be low."

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For more information contact:

Charli Scouller
PR Manager (School of Medicine and Dentistry)
Queen Mary University of London
c.scouller@qmul.ac.uk
Tel: 020 7882 7943

This study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research Programme Grants for Applied Research (NIHR PGfAR) Programme (Reference Number RP-PG-0407-10398).

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government's strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website.

About Queen Mary University of London

Queen Mary University of London is among the UK's leading research-intensive higher education institutions, with five campuses in the capital: Mile End, Whitechapel, Charterhouse Square, West Smithfield and Lincoln's Inn Fields.

A member of the Russell Group, Queen Mary is also one of the largest of the colleges of the University of London, with 17,800 students - 20 per cent of whom are from more than 150 countries.

Some 4,000 staff deliver world-class degrees and research across 21 departments, within three Faculties: Science and Engineering; Humanities and Social Sciences; and the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Queen Mary has an annual turnover of £350m, research income worth £100m, and generates employment and output worth £700m to the UK economy each year.

Unique for London universities, Queen Mary has an integrated residential campus in Mile End - a 2,000-bed award-winning Student Village overlooking the scenic Regents Canal.

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