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Vitamin D benefits for lung function in smokers

by Dr. Jamesh Meschino on

December 14, 2023 in

Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update (February 6, 2017)

I want to bring forward a study today, published by the American Thoracic Society. 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.

How is research on smoking and vitamin D evaluated?

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 and lung function, which was assessed concurrently using spirometry testing.

Does nutritional vitamin D restrain lung diseases?

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 nutritional benefits 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)means vitamin D deficiency, vitamin D supplements are likely required to raise the level to above 20ng/ml (50nmol/L).

How can smokers be healthy?

The most beneficial thing a smoker can do is quit smoking as soon as possible. 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.

What should be the optimal range of vitamin D in our blood level? 

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 the standard amount of vitamin D toxicity occurs at a blood level of 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. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120720081843.htm

Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great!

Dr. James Meschino

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