Does Does Sun Exposure have an Influence on COPD?

Does Does Sun Exposure have an Influence on COPD?

By Marc Sorenson, EdD.  Sunlight Institute….

COPD is defined as a heterogeneous collection of conditions that can affect various structures within the lung in a number of ways,[1] and usually cause difficulty in breathing. In 2005 there were 126,005 deaths in the US from COPD.[2]  Though there are multiple contributors to COPD such as tobacco smoke, occupational dusts, chemicals and air pollution, vitamin D and sun deficiencies may also play a role.  Research has demonstrated that the severity of the disease is correlated directly to serum levels of vitamin D,[3] and other research demonstrates that severe disturbed lung and peripheral muscle functions are more pronounced in COPD patients with vitamin D deficiency.[4] In addition, recent research shows that cardiopulmonary exercise capacity is increased remarkably in people with high vitamin D levels compared to those with low levels.[5] Of course, 90% of vitamin D blood levels are produced by sun exposure.

In other blogs, I have established that sun can prevent and even reverse osteoporosis, and it is also well-established that osteoporosis associates closely with COPD.[6] There is a high prevalence of COPD in patients with osteoporosis, and the disease is also more severe in patients with osteoporosis compared with patients with normal bone mass. [7] One may intelligently conclude, based on this information, that a part of the cause for both diseases is a lack of sun-derived vitamin D (and perhaps other sun-stimulated photoproducts). It is surprising that little or no research has been done on the effects of sun exposure per se. I would think that in very sunny areas, the risk of the disease would be reduced profoundly.

Now doesn’t that make you breathe easier?


[1] Rennard, S.  COPD: Overview of Definitions, Epidemiology, and Factors Influencing Its Development. Chest 1998;113(4)(Suppl 4):235s-241s.

[2] Deaths from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease—United States, 2000-2005.  JAMA 2009; 301(13):1331-1333.

[3] Janssens W, Bouillon R, Claes B, Carremans C, Lehouck A, Buysschaert I, Coolen J, Mathieu C, Decramer M, Lambrechts D.  Vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent in COPD and correlates with variants in the vitamin D-binding gene.  Thorax 2010;65(3):215-20.

[4] Yumrutepe T, Aytemur ZA, Baysal O, Taskapan H, Taskapan CM, Hacievliyagil SS. Relationship between vitamin D and lung function, physical performance and balance on patients with stage I-III chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Rev Assoc Med Bras. 2015 Mar-Apr;61(2):132-8.

[5] Kaul A, Gläser S, Hannemann A, Schäper C, Nauck M, Felix SB, Bollmann T, Ewert R, Friedrich N. Vitamin D is associated with cardiopulmonary exercise capacity: results of two independent cohorts of healthy adults. Br J Nutr. 2016 Feb 14;115(3):500-8

[6] Romme EA, Smeenk FW, Rutten EP, Wouters EF. Osteoporosis in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Expert Rev Respir Med. 2013 Aug;7(4):397-410.

[7] Silva DR, Coelho AC, Dumke A, Valentini JD, de Nunes JN, Stefani CL, da Silva Mendes LF, Knorst MM. Osteoporosis prevalence and associated factors in patients with COPD: a cross-sectional study. Respir Care. 2011 Jul;56(7):961-8.

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