But researchers are quick to warn that although vitamin D supplementation may offer some protection against the harmful effects of smoking, it does not stop the deterioration of lung function nor does it protect against other smoking-related health problems such as heart disease, stroke or cancer.
The protection against lung damage is probably due to the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin D, said lead researcher, Dr Nancy Lange of the Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“If these findings are replicated in other studies and interventional trials, vitamin D supplementation could have the potential to provide some protection against the damage to lung function that is due to smoking,” she said.
However, Lange cautioned that the protective effect was small and that the most important intervention is for people to stop smoking.
For the study, the researchers collected data on more than 600 men who were part of an ongoing, long-term study on ageing. Among these men, the researchers looked for an association between vitamin D and lung function.
Over 20 years of follow-up, they found that lung function among smokers with normal levels of vitamin D deteriorated less than that of smokers with below normal levels of this vitamin.
According to Dr Michael Holic from the Boston University School of Medicine these findings are consistent with other research on vitamin D and lung function. For example, children who are vitamin D deficient are more likely to develop wheezing and asthma, he pointed out.
“It’s not a surprise that smokers who are vitamin D deficient have poorer lung function,” Holick said. There are also some studies that suggest that smoking actually decreases vitamin D levels, he noted.
“It may be that vitamin D plays a role in maintaining healthy lung tissue,” Holick said. But, he added “I am not recommending that you take vitamins to counteract the negative effects of smoking on lung function.”
While the study found an association between vitamin D and smokers’ lung function, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Source: HealthDay News