Relatively low dietary intake of vitamins A and C boosts asthma risk

16 Apr 2009 14:34:00.000

PA 106/09

A relatively low dietary intake of vitamins A and C boosts the risk of asthma, suggests a systematic analysis of the available evidence published ahead of print in the journal Thorax.


These findings clash with a large review of the evidence, which was published last year.


Observational studies in recent years have pointed to a link between dietary antioxidant vitamins — A,C, and E — and asthma. But the results of clinical trials have proved inconclusive, claim the authors, from The University of Nottingham.

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In a bid to try and clear up the confusion, they conducted a comprehensive search of major databases of peer-reviewed research, abstracts of conference proceedings on asthma and wheeze, and bibliographies from 1980 to the end of 2007.


They found 40 relevant studies, which had looked at the association between vitamin intake and asthma and wheezing, out of more than 2,600.


The pooled results showed that dietary intake of vitamin A was significantly lower among those with asthma than in those who had not been diagnosed with the disease.


The average intake of 182 ug (microgram) a day was equivalent to between a quarter and a third of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A.


And vitamin A intake was also significantly lower in those with severe disease than in those with mild asthma, equivalent to around half of the recommended daily amount.


Low circulating levels of vitamin C in the bloodstream and lower dietary intake of foods containing vitamin C were also associated with a 12 per cent heightened risk of asthma.


Vitamin E intake was not associated with a diagnosis of asthma, but blood levels were significantly lower among those with severe disease compared with those whose symptoms were mild.


This translates into an intake that is 2 mg/day or 20 per cent lower than the recommended daily amount for Vitamin E.


The findings for an association between dietary antioxidants and wheeze were less consistent.


The authors point out that their research does not conclusively prove cause and effect, but they suggest that the large review published last year, which found no association between antioxidants and asthma risk, was limited in its scope.


The authors wrote in Thorax: “...This meta analysis searched only for studies in adults published in English language journals and listed in only one electronic database.... and the analyses were based on a combined outcome of asthma or wheeze.”


They concluded: “Overall, our findings from [the current] systematic review and meta-analysis indicate that low levels of vitamin C intake, and to a lesser extent vitamin A, are consistently associated with asthma risk to a degree that, if causal, would be sufficient to be clinically relevant.”


— Ends —

Journal reference:

Association between antioxidant vitamins and asthma outcome measures: systematic review and meta-analysis Online First Thorax 2009; doi 10.1136/thx.2008.101469


Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.


More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.


The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008. 

Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives ( in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.


Story credits

More information is available from Dr Jo Leonardi-Bee , Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 823 1933,
Tim Utton

Tim Utton - Deputy Director of Communications

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8092 Location: University Park

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