December 18, 2005
Vitamin D Crucial For Long Term Lung Health

Yet another argument for getting plenty of vitamin D:

Vitamin D may play a role in keeping our lungs healthy, with greater concentrations of vitamin D resulting in greater lung health benefits. A study in the December issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), shows that patients with higher concentrations of vitamin D had significantly better lung function, compared with patients with lower concentrations of vitamin D.

"Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer," said lead author Peter Black, MB, ChB, Department of Medicine, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. "Our research shows that vitamin D may also have a strong influence on lung health, with greater levels of vitamin D associated with greater and more positive effects on lung function."

Researchers from the University of Auckland examined the relationship between vitamin D and lung function using participants from the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) carried out during 1988 to 1994. The study included 14,091 people aged >= 20 years, who were interviewed at mobile examination centers, had spirometry performed, and had serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D measured. Vitamin D measurements were divided into five groups (quintiles), ranging from more than 85.7 mL to less than 40.4 mL. After adjusting for gender, age, ethnicity, body mass index, and smoking status, the differences between the lowest quintile of vitamin D and the next quintile were 79 mL for FEV1 and 71 mL for FVC. In comparison, the differences between the highest and lowest quintiles of vitamin D were 126 mL for FEV1 and 172 mL for FVC. With further adjustment for physical activity, intake of vitamin D supplements and milk, and antioxidant level, the difference between the highest and lowest quintiles of vitamin D also was significant at 106 mL for FEV1 and 142 mL for FVC. In addition, an association between vitamin D and FEV1 was seen in non-Hispanic whites and blacks and was greater for those over 60 years and current or former smokers.

Here is the most amazing part.

"The difference in lung function between the highest and lowest quintiles of vitamin D is substantial and greater than the difference between former and nonsmokers," said Dr. Black. "Although there is a definite relationship between lung function and vitamin D, it is unclear if increases in vitamin D through supplements or dietary intake will actually improve lung function in patients with chronic respiratory diseases."

Overall, male gender, younger age, white ethnicity, nonsmoking status, and regular, vigorous physical activity were associated with the highest lung function. Vitamin D was higher in men than women, was inversely related to BMI, and declined with age. Vitamin D also was lower in non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican-Americans, compared with non-Hispanic whites, and it was lower in participants smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day compared with nonsmokers.

"Vitamin D would be a relatively simple, low-cost intervention that would likely have high compliance to prevent or slow loss of lung function in susceptible subgroups. However, further studies examining the relationship between vitamin D and lung function are warranted to identify who may benefit from such an intervention," said author of the study's corresponding editorial Rosalind Wright, MD, MPH, Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

"Chronic lung conditions compromise quality of life for millions of people in the United States and around the world," said W. Michael Alberts, MD, FCCP, President of the American College of Chest Physicians. "By understanding the effect that vitamins have on lung function, we may be able to identify new and more effective treatments for these debilitating diseases."

People working indoors do not get the sun exposure that their ancestors got as farmers and manual laborers. Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem.

Also see my previous posts Vitamin D Could Decrease Overall Cancer Risk 30% and Higher Vitamin D Reduces Aging Bone Fracture Risks.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 December 18 08:05 PM  Aging Diet Studies

Doug said at December 19, 2005 7:50 AM:

I understand that the researchers want to be careful not to claim more than they know, especially in matters of health. But it seems they could at least say something to the effect that, even though they themselves still have much research to do in the area of vitamin D3 and lung function, there are already good reasons to maintain serum vitamin D3 at around 50 ng/ml. They could reference the work of Holick, Vieth, etc. The could point people to the website for the Vitamin D Council for more information. They could do a lot besides leave people hanging.

THE NOUGAT said at December 19, 2005 2:46 PM:

Interesting, I may've to up my vitamin D supplementation a bit, and cut down a bit on the nougat.

Randall Parker said at December 19, 2005 8:36 PM:


Happy to see you are familiar with Michael Holick's work. Check this out:

n North America, a typical 25-D blood concentration is 40 nanomoles per liter (nmol/l), and scientists long assumed that amount was adequate.

Last year, in a roundtable discussion at an osteoporosis conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, Vieth, Holick, Heaney, and others agreed that an optimal 25-D blood concentration for most people is 75 to 80 nmol/l. Most panelists, therefore, recommended that people strive for 800 to 1,000 IU of Vitamin D daily to achieve it.

That conclusion rests on a variety of experiments. David Hanley of the University of Calgary in Alberta cites studies focusing on parathyroid hormone, one of the factors regulating the natural breakdown of bone that constantly occurs throughout a healthy body. When a person's 25-D concentration dips too low, parathyroid hormone concentration in the blood rises and triggers excessive bone loss. Hanley says that several studies indicate that most people need 75 to 80 nmol/l of 25-D in their blood to protect their bones.

However, people 70 years old and older may need more than 100 nmol/l of 25-D to hold parathyroid hormone at healthy concentrations. Vieth and his colleagues reported this finding, which was based on a study of 1,700 people ages 19 to 97, in the January 2003 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Low 25-D concentrations may identify apparently healthy individuals who are at risk for type 2 diabetes as well as for bone problems. In the May 1 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Ken C. Chiu and his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles report that the lower the 25-D in study participants, the less likely they were to produce adequate amounts of insulin or to show sufficient sensitivity to insulin. Chiu's team found that increasing a person's blood concentration of 25-D from 25 nmol/l to about 75 nmol/l would "improve insulin sensitivity by 60 percent," which is a greater increase than many antidiabetes drugs provide.

The whole article and the previous article linked to at the top of it are very much worth reading if you haven't already read them.

Doug said at December 20, 2005 7:24 AM:


Thanks for the reply and the article references. John Cannell, MD, maintains a website about vitamin D3 nutrition. He has extensive topical bibliographies comprising links to abstracts (from which pages one can often navigate to the full article). Cannell became interested in vitamin D3, in the first instance, because he became aware of its influence on mood and its relation to some of the psychiatric disorders he treats. However, his topical bibliographies range well beyond the connection between vitamin D3 and psychiatric issues. Cannell also sends out a highly informative and very entertaining monthly newsletter about vitamin D3. Unless you're already overloaded with newsletters--and perhaps even if you are--I highly recommend his newsletter, to which you can subscribe at his site.

Most importantly, Cannell has a page on which he presents his views on treatment for people who are deficient in vitamin D3. He thinks those with a deficiency of vitamin D3 need to consume supplements in much higher quantities (under a physician's supervision) than people without a deficiency. And he thinks most people in the industrialized world should suspect they're deficient and get tested. We are presumptively greatly deficient, because we live well north or south of the equator, we live and work indoors, and we have taken sun-avoidance and sun-protection to an extreme.

As testimony that ordinary people who are vitamin-D3 deficient can safely consume supplements in amounts much greater than 1000 I.U. per day, I record here that I've been consuming 5000 - 10000 I.U. per day for more than a year now, after having been found to have a level of serum calcidiol of (if I recall exactly) 24 ng/ml. And I'm now stronger, deeper, more evil, and more beautiful than I've been in a long time.


gary roberts said at May 1, 2008 11:34 PM:

Gary from sun starved Seattle writes:: I have been fighting an uncomfortable 3 year running syndrome of sensitive sinuses, minor coughed up lung phlegm and slight asthmatic breathing, all as an after effect of a nasty Mexican respiratory virus. My Vit D count was just found to be 24 ng/ml and a naturopath then put me on 5000 IU daily of Vit D3. Anyone have any idea how long til I will see any response, if I do?? I am also on an anti-oxidant rich set of supplements, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, and a processed sugarless diet.

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