A rash of studies show vital role of vitamins A, C, D, folates, zinc and omega-3
A rash of studies show vital role of vitamins A, C, D, folates, zinc and omega 3
30 years of ever-increasing evidence
A rash of new studies and a review of 40 older studies spanning 30 years and from all over the world, show the crucial role of basic nutrients in reducing the incidence and severity of asthma.
Researchers in equatorial Costa Rica, led by John Brehm from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, found that 175 out of 616 asthmatic children were, incredibly (considering the sunny climate), deficient in vitamin D, and that these particular children needed hospitalization for their asthma more frequently. Their low vitamin D levels were associated with increased Immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels (markers of allergy) and asthma severity.
Elizabeth and William Matsui, researchers from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in the US, reviewed the medical records of more than 8000 people, collecting data on blood levels of folate (of the vitamin B family), respiratory and allergic symptoms, and IgE levels. They found that higher folate levels are associated with lower levels of the IgE allergy marker, fewer reported allergies, fewer episodes of wheezing, and reduced incidence of asthma. The lowest folate levels were associated with a 40% increase in risk of wheezing, a 30% higher risk of elevated IgE, and a 16% higher risk of having asthma as compared to the highest folate levels.
In addition, studies have supported the importance of nutrient synergy in reducing asthma risk. For example, a randomised, double blind, placebo-self-controlled crossover trial carried out at Tanta University in Egypt, headed up by Mohammed Al Biltagi, has found that a combined supplement containing omega-3, vitamin C and zinc is associated with significant improvements in asthma measures, lung function, and markers of inflammation in the lungs. This was also found to be the case for each single nutrient.
Asthma on the increase
Asthma is a condition the symptoms of which are recurrent attacks of shortness of breath, wheezing, cough and expectoration of persistent mucus. The condition is also characterized by increased levels of eosinophils in the blood and other signs of an inflammatory immune response, as well as increased serum levels of IgE, an allergy marker.
A 2006 article by Sidney Braman entitled: 'The Global Burden of Asthma', and published in the journal Chest, reports on the sharp increase in the global prevalence of the condition over the last 40 years. Worryingly, this increase is particularly apparent in children.
Many reasons have been suggested for this increase, including increased pollution of air, food, and water, our junk food diet, smoking, early weaning, increased stress on the immune system, increased and early vaccination, and the increase of new allergens such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Cochrane review criticised
A Cochrane review, updated in 2009, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to recommend a specific role for vitamin C in the treatment of asthma, and recommends further studies. However, the latter work is criticised by Leonardi-bee and colleagues, who co-authored the University of Nottingham meta-analysis. They comment that the discrepancy is explained by the observational data being 'systematically flawed by biases leading to spurious results from meta-analyses, and particularly publication bias'.
How regulation will impact informed choice
Restrictions in the availability of vitamins and minerals, vital for health as shown in studies such as these, loom ever more closely in the shape of the EU Food Supplements Directive, which affects both the availability of many vitamin and mineral forms and the setting of maximum permitted levels (MPLs), likely to be fully effective by 2010.
In addition, EU nutrition and health claims regulations look set to prevent doctors, therapists and other sources of trusted information (such as websites and product labels) from properly informing people of their options when it comes to natural treatments. Crucial information from studies such as these will simply not be passed on to those most needing to gain from it, due to draconian, Napoleonic EU laws, which prevent EU subjects from making any health claims unless they have specifically been approved for use by the central European authority on food safety, EFSA. See also our news item: ‘European Court ruling infringes freedom of speech’
Those outside the EU should not be complacent about this, since it looks ever more likely that the EU regulatory model may form the template for regulatory systems worldwide, as well as being incorporated into global guidelines such as those currently in development by Codex.
Are you willing to stand by and allow the obliteration of our fundamental rights and freedoms including those governing informed choice and access to natural products? Have you considered the implications of this for future generations? Our children need us to resolve this situation now!