Relieve Your Asthma... Catch Some Rays

From ScienceDaily (10/14) Breathe Easier: Get Your Vitamin D
Asthma, which inflames and narrows the airways, has become more common in recent years. While there is no known cure, asthma can be managed with medication and by avoiding allergens and other triggers. A new study by a Tel Aviv University researcher points to a convenient, free way to manage acute asthmatic episodes... catching some rays outside.

According to a paper recently published in the journal Allergy, measuring and, if need be, boosting Vitamin D levels could help manage asthma attacks. The research, conducted by Dr. Ronit Confino-Cohen of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Meir Medical Center, and the Clalit Research Institute, and Dr. Becca Feldman of the Clalit Research Institute drew on the records of millions of patients and used physician diagnoses, rather than self-reports, for evidence of asthma episodes. "Vitamin D has significant immunomodulatory effects and, as such, was believed to have an effect on asthma -- an immunologically mediated disease," said Dr. Confino-Cohen. "But most of the existing data regarding Vitamin D and asthma came from the pediatric population and was inconsistent. Our present study is unique because the study population of young adults is very large and 'uncontaminated' by other diseases."

Dr. Confino-Cohen and her team of researchers analyzed the medical records of nearly four million members of Clalit Health Services, Israel's largest health care provider. The Vitamin D levels of 307,900 people were measured between 2008 and 2012. Researchers also took into account key predictors of asthma, such as obesity, smoking, and other chronic diseases. Of some 21,000 asthma patients in Israel studied, those with a Vitamin D deficiency were 25 percent more likely than other asthmatics to have had at least one flare-up in the recent past. The researchers found that Vitamin D-deficient asthmatics were at a higher risk of an asthma attack. "Uncontrolled asthma" was defined as being prescribed at least five rescue inhalers, one prescription of oral corticosteroids, or visiting the doctor for asthma at least four times in a single year. "Our results add more evidence to the link between Vitamin D and asthma, suggesting beneficial effects of Vitamin D on asthma exacerbations," said Dr. Confino-Cohen. "We expect that further prospective studies will support our results. In the meantime, our results support a recommendation for screening of Vitamin D levels in the subgroup of asthma patients who experience recurrent exacerbations. In those with Vitamin D deficiency, supplementation may be necessary."


Asthma Reduced With UV Light

Australian researchers have found that exposure to measured doses of ultraviolet light, such as sunlight, could reduce asthma. The research team at Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, through funding provided by the Asthma Foundation of WA, studied the effect of ultraviolet light on the development of asthma-like symptoms in mice, such as inflamed airways and lungs.

The study found:

• Exposure to ultraviolet light for 15 to 30 minutes before allergen exposure significantly reduces the development of asthma-like symptoms

• This UV exposure produces a cell type that, when transferred into other mice before they're sensitized to an allergen, can prevent the development of some of the asthma-like symptoms.

Associate Professor Prue Hart, leader of the research team, which includes Dr Debra Turner, Dr Shelley Gorman and PhD student Jacqueline McGlade, is excited by the ground-breaking results and possible future applications. "This research clearly shows that controlled exposure to ultraviolet light markedly limits the development, incidence and severity of asthma symptoms in mice," said Associate Professor Hart. "It appears that sunlight can suppress specific immune reactions, so we are now working to better understand that mechanism with the aim of generating new ways to prevent and treat this chronic disease. "Given that overexposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer, it is important that we isolate and separate out the beneficial elements of ultraviolet light if we are to develop a safe and effective asthma therapy."

The Asthma Foundation of WA and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research expect that the asthma and ultraviolet light study will take several years to complete.

from Eurek Alert (10/06) Tammy Gibbs

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