This study was conducted by the John Hopkins University School of Medicine and was funded by the National Institutes of Health. It was published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice on February 11, 2019.
It was found in the study that for children suffering from asthma and are obese, Vitamin D could be a protective agent. It is helpful for children living in urban areas prone to high indoor air pollution.
Asthma is a condition in which a person’s airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This makes it difficult for the person to breathe and also causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Though asthma is incurable, its symptoms can be controlled.
Indoor air pollution is caused by cigarette smoke, cooking, burning of candles, and incense. It is a major reason for respiratory problems among people living in urban areas. It could also worsen asthma symptoms and increase the number of hospital visits by the patient.
To conduct the study, 120 school-aged children suffering from asthma and living in the Baltimore area were selected. Out of these 120 participants, about 40 were obese. Further, three factors were tested to facilitate the study. These included air pollution levels in homes, blood vitamin D levels, and asthma symptoms.
The tests were conducted at the beginning of the study and then thrice in a period of 9 months. From past studies, it was already known to the researchers that Vitamin D influences asthma as it makes an impact on antioxidant or immune-related pathways in the affected person.
The researchers through this study found that the effect of indoor pollution on obese children suffering from asthma was related to low blood vitamin D levels.
On the other hand, children with high blood vitamin D level did not show any negative signs even if they were exposed to more indoor pollution as compared to the above-mentioned category of children.
Senior author Nadia Hansel, director of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins, said, “Another important take home point is how the complex environment comes together to contribute to extra burden of asthma in these low-income, urban communities. Our results suggest that improving the asthma burden in the community may require a multi-faceted approach.”
Sonali Bose, lead author of the study said, “It became very clear that African-Americans were at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency, particularly black children. We were also noticing a heavy burden of asthma in inner-city minority children. It seemed as though vitamin D deficiency and asthma were coincident and interacting in some way.”
She added, “What surprised us the most was that the findings of the study showed the effects were most pronounced among obese children. This highlights a third factor at play here – the obesity epidemic – and helps bring that risk to light when considering individual susceptibility to asthma.”
According to DNA India about 10% to 15% of children in the age group 5-11 years suffer from asthma in India. Also, around 2 crore people in India is suffering from asthma currently.
Further studies would include looking for ways that could help in increasing the level of blood vitamin D in children to help them fight against asthma and make them more resilient to environmental insults.
A few of such ways can be increasing exposure to sun, eating food rich in Vitamin D like fatty fish, mushrooms, bread, orange juice, or milk.