“Wonder vitamin” reduces lung disease flare-ups by 40 percent

“Wonder vitamin” reduces lung disease flare-ups by 40 percent

You’ve probably been subjected to those ridiculous commercials featuring an elephant sitting on top of breathless lung disease sufferers. Aside from the question of whether any animals (or humans) were harmed in the making of these commercials, do you want to know the real elephant in the room?

New drugs like the one featured in this ad really have little to offer (other than the long list of side effects rattled off at the end of those annoying commercials). But the benefits of vitamins are hiding in plain sight.

In fact, a new British study showed that simple vitamin D supplements reduced flare-ups of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by over 40 percent.1

COPD includes lung conditions like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and affects more than 12 million people in the U.S. In fact, it’s the third leading cause of death in Americans.2 So it’s no wonder drug companies have gravitated toward this disease like a herd of stampeding elephants.

But, once again, the real results—and relief for patients suffering from COPD—are coming from nature, not big pharma.

Less inflammation, easier breathing

The study included 240 people with COPD. Half were given vitamin D supplements, and the other half received a placebo.

The researchers found that everyone in the vitamin D group had less severe and shorter COPD flare-ups. And among people who started the study with low vitamin D levels, the results were even more dramatic.

Of course, people in darker, colder climates like the U.K. (and much of the U.S.) are generally deficient in vitamin D. In the study, 87 percent of participants had inadequate vitamin D status. The people who had D blood levels lower than 50 nmol/L had the most pronounced reduction in COPD flare-ups.

As you know, vitamin D has many effects in the body. In this case, the researchers believe it suppressed the inflammatory cells that trigger lung disease flare-ups.

How much is enough?

For optimum health, I recommend 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily to ensure there’s a constant, adequate amount of the vitamin in the body at all times.

This dose is substantially more than the woefully inadequate 600 IU per day the government recommends for people under age 70 (if you’re over age 70, you get a “whopping” 800 IU a day). But these outdated recommendations are based on old, inadequate vitamin D research and fearmongering about “excess” vitamin D.

Doctors often worry that fat-soluble vitamins, like D, can be dangerous because they are stored in the body. But lets look at it the other way around. In the COPD study, participants were given the equivalent of about 120,000 IU of vitamin D all at once, and then got another dose of the same size two months later.

Our ability to store high doses of vitamin D actually shows how much this vitamin is needed in the body at all times. Furthermore, it proves that large quantities can be and are safely stored in the body.

So a supposed “megadose” of vitamin D is simply safely stored away for later use. What’s so dangerous about that, doc?

It’s certainly far safer than the anti-inflammatory steroid drugs that many doctors prescribe for COPD. Steroids disrupt the body’s metabolism and immune system about as much as vitamin D supports them.

But unfortunately, few people manage to leave a doctor’s office without a drug prescription. And these days, vitamins are primarily used and tested in addition to, not instead of, drugs.

Imagine how healthy our lungs—and our entire bodies—might be in a properly nourished, drug-free world.


1Martineau AR, et al. Vitamin D3 supplementation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (ViDiCO): a multicentre, double-blind, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/S2213-2600(14)70255-3.

2American Lung Association. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Fact Sheet. http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/resources/facts-figures/COPD-Fact-Sheet.html. Accessed December 17, 2014.