FRIDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- Vitamin D is important for the health of lung transplant patients, a new study suggests.
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Researchers from Loyola University Health System in Chicago found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increase in lung transplant rejection and infections.
"Patients who undergo lung transplants are at risk for rejecting the organ, and two-thirds of these patients are vitamin D deficient," Dr. Erin Lowery, the study's first author and assistant professor in the department of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, said in a health system news release.
For the study, researchers examined 102 lung transplant patients. The participants had their vitamin D levels checked within 100 days of their surgery or 100 days after the operation.
Normal vitamin D levels were found in 21 patients, but 81 transplant recipients were deficient. The rejection rate in the deficient group was more than twice as high as the group with adequate levels of vitamin D. The deficient group also had more than twice as many infections, and their mortality rate was nearly five times higher one year post-transplant.
The study authors said 52 percent of the transplant patients received a vitamin D supplement before their surgery. One year later, 75 patients had normal levels of the nutrient and 27 did not.
"Given the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in lung transplant patients and the growing evidence that this supplement helps the immune system tolerate the organ, optimal levels of vitamin D are critical for positive outcomes in these patients," Lowery said.
The study was published recently in the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation.
The body uses sunlight to make vitamin D. Other sources include dairy products and fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, and supplements.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, news release, April 24, 2012