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Vitamin D deficiency is associated with respiratory symptoms and airway wall thickening in smokers with and without COPD: a prospective cohort study



Previous studies have established a higher prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with COPD, but the relationship between vitamin D levels and COPD exacerbations remains controversial. In addition, the effect of vitamin D levels on imaging characteristics remains mostly unexplored. Using cross-sectional and longitudinal follow up data from the COPDGene Study, we assessed the association between vitamin D levels on respiratory symptoms, exacerbations, and imaging characteristics. We hypothesized that vitamin D deficiency will be associated with worse respiratory-related outcomes.


Current and former smokers between ages 45-80 were enrolled the COPDGene Study. Subjects completed questionnaires, spirometry, six-minute walk test, and chest computed tomography scans. A subset of subjects had measurement of serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D). Vitamin D deficiency was defined as serum concentration less than 20 ng/mL. Longitudinal follow up was conducted via a web-based or telephone questionnaire.


Vitamin D levels were measured on 1544 current and former smokers, of which 981 subjects had sufficient vitamin D levels and 563 subjects had vitamin D deficiency. Subjects with vitamin D deficiency were younger with increased likelihood of being African American, being current smokers, having a lower percent predicted FEV1, and having COPD. Vitamin D deficiency was associated with worse quality of life, increased dyspnea, decreased exercise tolerance, and increased frequency of severe exacerbations. Vitamin D deficiency was also associated with increased segmental airway wall thickness on chest CT scans.


Vitamin D deficiency was associated with increased respiratory symptoms, decreased functional status, increased frequency of severe exacerbations, as well as airway wall thickening on chest CT scans. Further research is needed to determine the potential impact of vitamin D supplementation to improve disease outcomes.

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