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Vitamin D deficiency alters lung growth and function, found in first study

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Vitamin D deficiency

For the first time researchers have linked vitamin D deficiency to altered lung function and structure.

Scientists tested two groups of young mice, finding vitamin D deficiency was associated with decreased lung volume and increased airway resistance.

The researchers tests two week old mice - one group modeled with vitamin D deficiency and the other without, used as a control. In both groups, samples of lung tissue were obtained. The scientists also measured airway resistance and lung volume, using plethysmograph.

The mice with vitamin D deficiency had smaller lungs that the researchers explain may have been caused by deficiency of the vitamin in the mother. Sampling of lung tissue confirmed decreased lung function in the model mice.

Graeme Zosky, PhD, a research fellow at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Subiaco, Australia. “This is the first direct mechanistic evidence showing that vitamin D deficiency alters lung development, which may explain the association between obstructive lung disease and levels of vitamin D.”

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Zosky adds because of the nature of the study it's not known if the changes in lung function and structure were from vitamin D deficiency in the mother that occurred in utero, or a direct result.

The researchers say the study supports past epidemiological studies suggesting low vitamin D levels contribute to asthma and COPD.

"The differences we observed in lung volume and lung mechanics, which were substantial and physiologically relevant, raise serious concerns regarding the increased prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in communities around the world. The results also raise concerns about the potential this deficiency may have on lung health, and in particular, the potential impact deficiency may have on the susceptibility to obstructive lung disease.”

The study is the first to to show the causal relationship between low levels of vitamin D and altered lung function and structure. The researchers suggest more studies. Supplementing vitamin D might improve lung health for susceptible patients with respiratory disease, based on the initial findings of the research.

Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care