a1 Channing Laboratory and Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 181 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA
The prevalence of asthma and other atopic disorders continues to increase worldwide. Examination of the epidemiologic patterns has revealed that this rise has occurred primarily in western, industrialised countries and countries transitioning to this lifestyle. While many changes have occurred in human populations over the years, it has been hypothesised that some of the relevant changes that have led to the rise in asthma and atopic disorders have been the changes from a traditional diet to a more western diet consisting of decreased intake of fruits and vegetables (sources of antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids) leading to decreased intakes of vitamins E and A, and a decrease in sun exposure (e.g. greater time spent indoors and heavy use of sunscreen) leading to decreased circulating levels of vitamin D. This review will examine the evidence for an effect of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D and K) on the development and severity of assthma and allergies. While observational studies suggest that these vitamins may play a salutary role in asthma and allergies, large, well-designed clinical trials are lacking. Of the fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin D holds great promise as an agent for primary and secondary prevention of disease. Ongoing clinical trials will help determine whether results of observational studies can be applied to the clinical setting.
(Online publication November 25 2011)