MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Brent Richards, MD, MSc
Associate Professor of Medicine
William Dawson Scholar / FRQS Clinical Research Scholar
Departments of Medicine, Human Genetics, Epidemiology and Biostatistics McGill University
Senior Lecturer, King’s College London (Honorary)
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Some previous epidemiological studies have suggested that low vitamin D levels are associated with increased rates of asthma, atopic dermatitis—an itchy inflammation of the skin—and elevated levels of IgE, an immune molecule linked to atopic disease (allergies). In our study, we looked at genetic and health data on more than 100,000 individuals from previous large studies to determine whether genetic alterations that are associated with vitamin D levels predispose people to the aforementioned conditions.
We found no statistically significant difference between rates of asthma (including childhood-onset asthma), atopic dermatitis, or IgE levels in people with and without any of the four genetic changes associated with lower levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, the form of vitamin D routinely measured in the blood.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Our findings suggest that previous associations between low vitamin D and atopic disease could be due to spurious associations with other factors. Thus, efforts to increase vitamin D levels, by taking, for example, vitamin D supplements, will probably not result in decreased risk of asthma, atopic dermatitis, or elevated IgE levels.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Our results do not exclude an association between the outcomes and levels of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, the active form of vitamin D, and the study of this association could be the subject of future research. Also, more work will be needed to determine if the results can be generalized in non-European populations and in people with vitamin D deficiency.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: The findings of this study do contrast a recent study from our group which used similar methods to provide evidence supporting a causal role for vitamin D in the risk of multiple sclerosis, a common neurological disorder. Our previous findings suggest that low vitamin D levels increase risk for some inflammatory diseases like multiple sclerosis, but these effects do not translate to other inflammatory diseases like asthma and atopic dermatitis. This suggests that people at risk for multiple sclerosis should ensure that they have adequate vitamin D levels, but that efforts to increase vitamin D levels would not be expected to protect them against asthma.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Manousaki D, Paternoster L, Standl M, Moffatt MF, Farrall M, Bouzigon E, et al. Vitamin D levels and susceptibility to asthma, elevated immunoglobulin E levels, and atopic dermatitis: A Mendelian randomization study. PLoS Med, 2017 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002294
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