Wim Janssens and colleagues from Leuven University measured serum vitamin D levels in a group of 414 people aged over 50 years.
Among the 262 patients with COPD, the degree of vitamin D deficiency was correlated with severity of lung symptoms.
In addition, COPD patients with two copies of a particular variant of the vitamin D binding gene rs7041 were at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, the researchers found.
Dr Janssens and his team concluded: 'Our data warrants vitamin D supplementation in patients with severe COPD, especially in those carrying at-risk rs7041 variants.'
They suggest that supplementation could represent 'an attractive therapeutic option to prevent disease progression', before the consequences of COPD and ageing further reduce vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D deficiency in COPD is thought to be a consequence of increased skin ageing secondary to smoking and reduced sunlight exposure as a result of low exercise tolerance.
However, Dr Janssens and his colleagues believe that vitamin D levels might also be important for pulmonary function.
- Thorax Online 2010