Vitamin D improves exercise strength for COPD patients

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
COPD and vitamin D
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High dose vitamin D helps COPD patients with improved muscle strength and exercise capacity.

That’s the conclusion of a new finding from Belgium researchers who suggest vitamin D supplements in high doses can help patients undergoing pulmonary rehabilitation.

Breathing problems make it difficult to patients with lung disease to exercise. Adding vitamin D that is often deficient with COPD can strengthen respiratory muscles and improve exercise outcomes.

Miek Hornikx, physiotherapist and doctoral student in the department of pneumology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Leuven, Belgium says, "Low levels of vitamin D in the blood have been related with muscle weakness, a major target for respiratory rehabilitation and increased risk of falls.”

Hornikx explains the research team wanted to know if boosting vitamin D would help COPD patients with pulmonary rehabilitation.

High dose of vitamin D compared to placebo in study

Fifty patients were enrolled in the study. One group was given placebo and the other vitamin D supplements. Quality of life questionnaires were submitted before and after three months of pulmonary rehab.

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The participants’ respiratory and peripheral muscle strength and exercise capacity was compared before and after the study. Vitamin D levels were also measured.

The high dose of vitamin D used in the study was 100,000 IUs (international units) of vitamin D, higher than the USDA recommended allowance of 600 IUs daily for adults up to age 70 and 800 IUs daily for adults over age 70.

At the end of the study, the group given vitamin D had greater peripheral and respiratory muscle strength and higher exercise capacity than the placebo group.

Quality of life was not reported as improved. The researchers say the short duration of the study and small group might explain the lack of improvement in quality of life scores.

The study suggests adding high dose vitamin D to COPD patient’s rehabilitation program adds strength and improves exercise capacity. Longer studies are suggested to gauge whether vitamin D also improves health related quality of life.

American Thoracic Society International Conference

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