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Antioxidant-Enriched Supplement Reduces Respiratory Illness in Cystic Fibrosis Patients

Researchers find that a specially formulated antioxidant-enriched supplement may decrease respiratory illnesses in patients with cystic fibrosis.

New research coming in from the Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado School of Medicine suggests that a specially formulated oral antioxidant-enriched supplement could decrease respiratory illnesses in those with cystic fibrosis (CF).

CF is the result of mutations occurring in a gene called cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center, this gene is responsible for providing instructions to the CFTR protein, which in patients without CF, serves as a channel where cells can release chloride and other ions. In CF patients, however, the protein is defective, and so, cells are not able to release chloride.

This inability leads to an improper salt balance within cells, resulting in a thick mucus that is capable of clogging a patient’s lungs. When this happens, bacteria often get trapped in airways, leading to inflammation and infections. Mucus buildup, over time, can lead to progressive lung function decline.

For their study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, investigators set out to assess what effects an oral antioxidant-enriched multivitamin supplement would have on antioxidant concentrations, inflammation markers, and oxidative stress, and if it could improve patient outcomes.

The multicenter, double-blind, controlled study was conducted over the course of 16 weeks and included 73 pancreatic-insufficient CF patients 10 years of age or older; the average age of study participants was 22 years. The participants were randomized into 2 arms: those who would receive the supplement and those who would receive a control supplement.

Ordinarily, CF patients have trouble absorbing dietary antioxidants—including carotenoids such as beta-carotene, tocopherols (vitamin E), coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and selenium—that help neutralize inflammation in the body. To address this, the antioxidants that were used in the study were administered in a capsule “specifically designed for individuals with difficulties absorbing fats and proteins,” such as those with CF.

Overall, the investigators found the supplement to be safe and well-tolerated by study participants. They noted increased antioxidant concentrations in the bloodstream of those who received the supplement and reduced inflammation in the blood at 4 weeks, but not 16 weeks. Half as many of the patients who were given the supplement experienced a respiratory illness requiring antibiotics compared with the control group at 16 weeks. Furthermore, the supplement was found to prolong the time to the first respiratory illness that would require antibiotic treatment and decrease the frequency of these illnesses in those treated.

“While more research certainly needs to be done to find a treatment that delivers a sustained anti-inflammatory effect, we believe the fact that this antioxidant supplement prolonged the time patients had before their first illness is meaningful,” Scott D. Sagel, MD, PhD, a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado Denver and director of the Mike McMorris CF Center at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said in a recent statement. “It offers a simple, relatively inexpensive means for restoring and maintaining normal antioxidant levels in people who would otherwise have trouble doing so.”