Asthma Sufferers: Take More Vitamin C = Less Medication
People with asthma may require less inhaled
medication if they also take vitamin C, according to the journal
Respiratory Medicine (2006;100:174-9). Inhaled corticosteroids are the most
commonly prescribed medications for asthma, but long-term use is associated
with a number of undesirable side effects, such as cataracts, bone loss,
and immune-system suppression. The results of the new study suggest that
vitamin C supplementation may be a way to reduce the amount of steroid
drugs needed to keep asthma symptoms under control. Newswire (January 12, 2006)
In this two-part study, British researchers first determined whether
vitamin C (1 gram per day for 16 weeks) or magnesium (450 mg per day for 16
weeks) could control asthma symptoms better than placebo in 92 adults with
asthma. In a study like this, benefits of supplements are likely to be
small and difficult to detect because the vast majority of people with
asthma already control their symptoms using drugs. Thus, there was little
opportunity for people in this study to improve as long as they remained on
the drugs, which they did throughout the study.
Vitamin C and magnesium failed to improve symptom control significantly
over baseline levels. But as previous research has suggested that these
nutrients could offer a benefit, the authors designed a second part to the
study to discover whether any beneficial effects of the supplements might
have been masked by the drugs. To explore this, the people continued their
supplement (vitamin C, magnesium, or placebo) while undergoing a ten-week,
staged reduction in their corticosteroid medication.
Vitamin C was found to have a modest sparing effect: people who took
vitamin C were able to reduce their intake of inhaled corticosteroids
without any loss of symptom control. This is important because the side
effects of corticosteroid drugs increase when higher doses are used;
reducing daily intake, even by a small amount, could prevent some adverse
effects. Magnesium was not found to be effective.
The adrenal glands are responsible for producing the body's own
corticosteroid hormones. Research suggests that the adrenals require
vitamin C to make these hormones. Thus it makes sense that taking a vitamin
C supplement could support the body's own production of adrenal
corticosteroids, possibly reducing the amount of hormone needed in drug
People taking asthma medications should never abruptly discontinue their
steroid medications, even if they are taking vitamin C. Too rapid
withdrawal from steroid medications can cause serious health problems.
Always work with the prescribing doctor to adjust the amount of any
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