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NMU 41 – Vitamin D May Protect Lung Function in Smokers

Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No. 41 (February 6, 2017)

with Dr. James Meschino


Research Topic: Vitamin D May Protect Lung Function in Smokers

Source: American Thoracic Society (July 20, 2012)


I want to bring forward a study today, published by the American Thoracic Society on July 20, 2012. The study showed that smokers who had higher vitamin D blood levels showed better lung function over a 20-year period, compared to smokers who have lower vitamin D blood levels. Here’s how the study was done:

As part of the Normative Aging Study, researchers examined the relationship between vitamin D blood levels and the rate of lung function decline in smokers over a 20-yr period. The study involved 626 caucasian male smokers. The researchers noted that vitamin D sufficiency (defined as serum vitamin D levels of >20 ng/ml or approximately 50 nmol/L) had a protective effect on lung function and the rate of lung function decline. These findings were based on vitamin D levels that were assessed at three different time points between 1984 and 2003, and lung function, which was assessed concurrently using spirometry testing.

According to the researchers, “results suggest that vitamin D might modify the damaging effects of smoking on lung function. These effects might be due to vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.” The researchers did not comment on the ability of vitamin D to reduce the risk of lung cancer, but the study suggested that sufficient vitamin D status appears to slow the decline in lung function associated with smoking. This has important implications regarding the prevention of smoking-related emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. As such, it appears that smokers should have their blood vitamin D levels evaluated. If the level is below 20ng/ml (50nmol/L), vitamin D supplements are likely required to raise the level to above 20ng/ml (50nmol/L).

Of course, the best thing a smoker can do is quit smoking. It’s unlikely that higher vitamin D status can prevent lung cancer. Remember that 87% of lung cancer is linked to cigarette smoking, so smoking cessation is always the ultimate goal. However, until smoking cessation occurs, smokers should know that achieving a vitamin D blood level of at least 50 mmol/L may help to slow or prevent the decline in lung function linked to emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

As a final comment, many studies show that it is best to have a blood vitamin D level (25-hydroxycholecalciferol) at or above 85 nmol/L (35 ng/ml) in regards to the prevention of cancer in general, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis and some other degenerative diseases. I think all adults should aim for a blood level in this range. Note that vitamin D toxicity occurs at a blood level around 250nmol/l (100 ng/ml).

I’ve included a link to the research study in the text below


American Thoracic Society (ATS) (2012, July 20). Vitamin D may protect lung function in smokers.

Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great!

Dr. James Meschino

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