Low Vitamin D levels linked to lung disease.
Lower than normal levels of vitamin D in the blood were linked to increased risk of early interstitial lung disease, according to an analysis of a new study. Reviewing medical information gathered on more than 6,000 adults over a 10-year period, Johns Hopkins researchers have found that lower than normal blood levels of vitamin D were linked to increased risk of early signs of interstitial lung disease (ILD). Interstitial lung disease is a relatively rare group of disorders characterised by lung scarring and inflammation that may lead to progressive, disabling and irreversible lung damage. An estimated 200,000 cases a year are diagnosed in the United States, most of them caused by environmental toxins such as asbestos or coal dust, but it can be caused by autoimmune disorders, infections, medication side effects or, sometimes, from unknown causes. Once diagnosed with the disease, most people don't live longer than five years. In a series of studies, the researchers sought to learn about new, and potentially treatable, factors related to early signs of the disease seen by CT scans, imaging abnormalities that may be present long before symptoms develop, which may help guide future preventive strategies. Results of the most recent data analysis, published in the Journal of Nutrition, suggest that low vitamin D might be one factor involved in developing interstitial lung disease. Although the researchers caution their results can't prove a cause and effect, their data support the need for future studies to investigate whether treatment of vitamin D deficiency, such as with supplements or sunlight exposure, could potentially prevent or slow the progression of the disorder in those at risk. Currently, there is no proven treatment or cure once interstitial lung disease is established. "We knew that the activated vitamin D hormone has anti-inflammatory properties and helps regulate the immune system, which goes awry in ILD," says Erin Michos, MD, MHS, associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and associate director of preventive cardiology at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Centre for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. "There was also evidence in the literature that vitamin D plays a role in obstructive lung diseases such as asthma and COPD, and we now found that the association exists with this scarring form of lung disease too." To search for that association, Michos and her research team used data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), which from 2000 to 2002 recruited 6,814 people from Forsyth County, North Carolina; New York City; Baltimore, Maryland; St. Paul, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; and Los Angeles, California. The average age of participants was 62, and 53% were women. Thirty-eight % of participants were white, 28% were African-American, 22% were Hispanic and 12% were Chinese. At an initial clinical visit, staff took blood samples for each participant and measured, among other things, vitamin D levels. Those with vitamin D levels less than 20 nanograms per millilitre, about 30% of participants, were considered vitamin D deficient (2,051 people). Those with vitamin D levels of 20-30 nanograms per millilitre were considered to have "intermediate," although not optimal, levels of the nutrient, while those with 30 nanograms per millilitre or more were considered to have met recommended levels.
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