A vitamin D deficiency makes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) worse, according to Nele Heulens, of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, and several colleagues. The results of their study were published
in Respiratory Research
on September 16, 2015.
COPD involves airway inflammation, and cigarette smoking is a well-known risk factor for the disease. However, it appears that a vitamin D deficiency could speed the progression of the condition, as well as make the symptoms worse. The authors of this study investigated vitamin D deficiency and cigarette smoke exposure in mice.
Both vitamin D deficient and a control group of mice were divided into two groups: those exposed to cigarette smoke, and those exposed to ambient air. Both subacute (6 weeks) and chronic (12 weeks) cigarette smoke exposure were tested. The researchers measured lung function, the structures of the airways and lungs, and performed an analysis of the cellular infiltrate and lung parenchyma/
The mice that were vitamin D deficient showed “accelerated lung function decline following cigarette smoke exposure compared to control mice.” Those that were exposed to cigarette smoke for 6 weeks showed signs of lung hyperinflation, while the control group did not. Additionally, the only mice that exhibited early symptoms of emphysema were the vitamin D deficient mice. The researchers also noted that cigarette smoke exposure in the vitamin D deficient mice had significantly more airway inflammation than the control group.
Previous studies have shown that vitamin D has both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. This study aimed to show that a vitamin D deficiency has a direct influence on the pathogenesis of a murine model of subacute and chronic cigarette exposure. Lack of vitamin D accelerates the loss of lung function, and increases inflammation in mice exposed to cigarette smoke. The researchers suggest that “large preventive trials assessing the effect of vitamin D supplementation on COPD onset” could provide more insight into the role of vitamin D in patients with COPD.