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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Study: Vitamin D Has No Clear Benefit for COPD Patients

But Vitamin D Supplementation May Reduce COPD Flare-ups in People With Severely Low Levels

Screen for Low Vitamin D in COPD

Screening people with COPD for low vitamin D makes sense, says researcher Wim Janssens, MD, PhD, of the University Hospitals Leuven in Leuven, Belgium. “Be aware that vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in COPD and that it needs supplementation for bone health reasons,” he says in an email. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is important for bone health.

“Severe deficiency of vitamin D levels ... may even increase the COPD exacerbation rate and needs therefore aggressive supplementation,” he says. But “don’t think that supplementation will cure your disease.”

Barry Make, MD, agrees. He is a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health in Denver. “The study suggests that going forward maybe we should study preventing exacerbations in people that have low vitamin D levels,” he says.

His bottom line? “Vitamin D is important to measure and if it is low, it makes sense to supplement,” he says.

Adam Wanner, MD, is a pulmonologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He says the jury is still out on what role vitamin D supplements have, and in which COPD patients. “There were no benefits in terms of exacerbations in the study, but when they looked at the subset of those who had severe vitamin D deficiency, there was a benefit,” he says. “This is an important study in the sense that it helps us design future studies.”

The results of the study are in the eye of the beholder, says Michael Holick, MD, PhD. He is the director of the Vitamin D, Skin, and Bone Research Lab at Boston University. Holick has been championing vitamin D for years.

“Vitamin D has benefit above and beyond bone health,” he says. “There was a significant benefit for those people in the study who were most deficient.”

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