Vitamin D Supplementation May Improve Asthma Control

Vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk for asthma exacerbations but does not improve lung function or asthma symptoms, according to a new Cochrane Review.


Low levels of vitamin D are known to increase the risk of asthma attacks. Therefore, researchers aimed to determine the effect of an oral vitamin D supplement on asthma symptoms, lung function, and attacks.


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The researchers analyzed 7 trials that included 435 children with asthma and 2 studies that included 658 adults with asthma from 6 countries. The majority of participants had mild to moderate asthma, and some had severe asthma.

Most participants continued their standard treatment during the study period, which lasted between 4 and 12 months.

The researchers found that oral vitamin D supplements reduced the risk of severe asthma attacks requiring systemic corticosteroids and reduced the risk of having at least one exacerbation requiring an emergency visit or hospitalization or both.

Vitamin D supplementation did not, however, affect the risk for adverse events, nor did it improve lung function or everyday asthma symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath.

“Meta-analysis of a modest number of trials in people with predominantly mild to moderate asthma suggests that vitamin D is likely to reduce both the risk of severe asthma exacerbation and healthcare use,” the researchers concluded.

“It is as yet unclear whether these effects are confined to people with lower baseline vitamin D status; further research, including individual patient data meta-analysis of existing datasets, is needed to clarify this issue. Children and people with frequent severe asthma exacerbations were under-represented; additional primary trials are needed to establish whether vitamin D can reduce the risk of severe asthma exacerbation in these groups.”

—Amanda Balbi


Martineau AR, Cates CJ, Urashima M, et al. Vitamin D for the management of asthma [published online September 5, 2016]. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011511.pub2.