Stories tagged asthma


Vitamin D supplement study in children reduced catching flu almost in half

Vitamin D: Calcitriol is the active form of vitamin D found in the body.
Vitamin D: Calcitriol is the active form of vitamin D found in the body.Courtesy JaGa

Last week I blogged about why Vitamin D is needed for health.

This week I came across another study showing that Vitamin D is a flu fighter. The study has just been published online, ahead of print, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In the study children were asked to swallow six pills a day (25% dropped out). Half of the children's pills were placebos (fake). The pill givers did not know which pills were fake (double blind).

Incidence of influenza A was 10.8 percent among the 167 kids who received vitamin D pills. That's in contrast to a flu rate of 18.6 percent among an equal number of children getting identical looking inert pills. Doctors monitoring the trial confirmed flu cases using a test to assay for the influenza-A germ.

Vitamin D group had fewer asthma attacks

The study also noted that two asthma attacks occurred during the trial among kids getting the vitamin, compared to 12 in the unsupplemented group. The study doesn’t say whether the same number of kids with a history of asthma were in each group so this result may not be valid.

Better protection after 3 months of Vitamin D

The researchers also stated that it may take almost three months “to reach a steady state of vitamin D concentrations by supplementation". I interpret this to mean that takes our bodies about 90 days to accumulate an effective Vitamin D concentration (less illness after 3 months of taking vitamin D than during initial 3 months).


Future Olympian: The 2012 games promise to be touching, tedious.
Future Olympian: The 2012 games promise to be touching, tedious.Courtesy from a second story.
Providing much needed—though little deserved—encouragement to sweaty crybabies around the world, a recent study has determined that crying and sweating seems to reduce exercise-induced asthma (EIA) in athletes. That is to say, athletes who have lower fluid excretion rates (sweat, saliva and tears) more often suffer from EIA than athletes who, you know, cry, sweat and drool a lot.

This research corresponds strongly with my own findings: I am, by all accounts, a champion sweater and drooler, and a world-class crybaby, and I have never once suffered from exercise-induced asthma. I also avoid exercise at all costs, however.

It’s thought that the mechanism that governs sweat production could be linked to the mechanism that keeps airways from drying out. So athletes who sweat (and drool and cry) less may also have drier airways, which can become irritated and constrict.

The researchers also found that people with higher sodium excretion rates (saltier sweat?) were less likely to suffer from EIA, although no cause-effect relationship was established in the study.

The findings might one day lead to better treatments for EIA, but in the meantime professionals are urging the public to restrict their exercise to eating and complaining.

As the Mississippi flood waters recede, a new threat is rising. Public health officials in Iowa are warning people about the health risks associated with cleaning up their water-damaged homes, farms and buildings. Bacteria thrives in the water, and could lead to a number of diseases, and can contaminate well water. Water-logged buildings are a haven for mold, which can cause serious problems for allergy and asthma sufferers.


Hookworms in the lining of the intestines: All together now: "ewwwwwwwwwwww."
Hookworms in the lining of the intestines: All together now: "ewwwwwwwwwwww."Courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Cleanliness is next to godliness, but is it possible to have too much of a good thing? For several decades, immunological diseases -- such as hay fever, asthma, diabetes and multiple sclerosis – have been increasing in developed countries, but are uncommon in many undeveloped regions. Medical researcher Joel Weinstock theorizes that modern life is too clean – by scrupulously avoiding dirt, bugs and germs, our immune systems don’t develop properly, leading to the diseases listed above. Weinstock goes so far as to speculate that exposure to hookworm, pinworm, and other intestinal parasites may have been the trigger necessary for developing a healthy immune system. As these parasites have been eradicated, immunological diseases have skyrocketed.

The theory is currently being tested in the lab. Weinstock doesn’t advocate the return of worm infestations. But he does think that getting your hands dirty once in a while can help keep your body in balance.


Chitin, a clue in understanding asthma.

Asthma linked to chitin: House dust mite.
Asthma linked to chitin: House dust mite.
Chitin is found in dust mites, cockroaches, insect eggs, shellfish, fungi, and intestinal worms. When researchers at Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) aerosolized purified chitin and sprayed it into the lungs of laboratory mice, it caused a rapid and intense immune response.

The researchers found that when mice have more AMCase than normal, the immune response to chitin is greatly reduced. Locksley believes that AMCase, a chitinolytic enzyme, attenuates the chitin-induced innate immune response by degrading the chitin. This removes the stimulus for further eosinophil and basophil recruitment more rapidly and halts the allergic response. Howard Hughs Medical Institute research news

Acidic mammalian chitinase, AMCase, breaks down chitin.

Our immune system can remember what previous irritants look like and can respond with a customized defense. This ability explains why vaccinations are effective. Sometimes the defense (or allergic response) overwhelms other body functions (like in an asthma attack). Findings about chitin and AMCase may help explain the extremely high rates of asthma—as high as 25 percent—found in previously asymptomatic workers in shellfish processing plants.

Read about new asthma research online.

Richard Locksley's laboratory is investigating the biological mechanisms underlying asthma and hopes to provide new ways of preventing and possibly treating it. The new findings are published in the April 22, 2007, online version of the journal Nature You can read their research abstract here.