A new study determines high dose supplements of vitamin D may increase the exercise capacity and strength of respiratory muscles in people with emphysema, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a new study indicates.

According to findings presented at the ATS 2011 International Conference in Denver, after taking monthly doses of  high amounts of 100,000 IUs (international units) of vitamin D, people with COPD experienced significant improvements in exercise capacity and respiratory muscle strength compared to those in the placebo group,

Current US government recommendations for vitamin D are 600 IUs per day for adults up to age 70 and 800 IUs daily over 70 year-olds.

Miek Hornikx from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium said, “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.

“These results support the idea that correcting vitamin D deficiency by adding vitamin D supplements to training programs allows COPD patients to achieve better results from rehabilitation, including improvements in muscle strength and exercise capacity,” she added.

D plus physical rehabilitation

COPD primarily impacts people with a history of cigarette smoking, and is the number five cause of death worldwide.  Their lungs show signs of chronic inflammation in the small airways and causes excessive mucus production, excessive fibrousconnective tissue development (fibrosis), and breakdown of proteins (proteolysis).  It is a chronic, treatable disease, without a known cure.

COPD patients frequently experience vitamin D deficiency. Researchers in Belgium evaluated  the effects of a high-dose vitamin D supplement versus placebo in 50 COPD patients.

After ninety days of vitamin D supplementation  in conjunction with a lung  rehabilitation program, the researchers reported that subjects in the vitamin D group experienced  a significant improvement in their exercise capacity and breathing (respiratory) muscle strength, in comparison to a group not receiving vitamin D (the placebo group).

“Our study shows that high doses of vitamin D supplementation on top of a standard rehabilitation program improve the outcome in terms of exercise capacity and respiratory muscle strength,” said Hornikx.

Source: ATS 2011 International Conference
Colorado Convention Center; Abstract 17477
“Vitamin D Supplementation During Rehabilitation In Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: An Intervention Study”