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Do Low Vitamin D Levels in Children Increase the Risk of Allergies?

Is there a link between vitamin D and allergies in children? Vitamin D has taken center stage recently as preliminary research shows that vitamin D deficiency is common and may increase the risk for a multitude of health problems including multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancer.

Even more concerning is the fact that children with low levels of vitamin D can develop the serious bone disease rickets. But does vitamin D play a role in childhood allergies too?

Low vitamin D levels and allergy in children

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found a link between allergies in children and low vitamin D after examining vitamin D levels in 3,100 children under the age of 21. They also used blood samples to measure IgE antibody levels. IgE is the type of antibody that goes up when a person is allergic to something. They did the same testing on adults.

What did they find? Among adults, there was no link between vitamin D levels and allergy — but with kids it was a different story. Kids who had low vitamin D levels were more likely to taste positive for a variety of food and environmental allergens including peanuts and ragweed.

How significant was vitamin D for predicting allergy? Children who had low levels of vitamin D (under 15 nanograms per milliliter) were 2.4 times more likely to have a peanut allergy than children with normal vitamin D levels.

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Too many kids are vitamin D deficient

Disturbingly, up to 7 out of 10 children don’t get enough vitamin D. Sunshine is the best source of this vitamin that’s so important for good health, but some parents understandably worry about exposing their children to too much sunlight. As a result, they slather the sunscreen on, which blocks vitamin D absorption. It’s a good idea to do this to reduce the risk of skin cancer, but it makes it even more important for a child to get vitamin D from other sources.

Unfortunately, there are few good food sources of vitamin D with the exception of vitamin D fortified milk. This is why many pediatricians recommend supplementing children with 400 I.U. of vitamin D each day. Supplementation makes sense since not all kids drink 32 ounces of vitamin D fortified milk each day — the amount needed to keep vitamin D levels where they should be for most kids. Fortunately, some yogurt and orange juice is now fortified with vitamin D as well.

Babies who are breastfed also need vitamin D supplementation since breast milk doesn’t provide enough vitamin D naturally.

Allergies in children and vitamin D

Allergies in children are common, and they may be linked with low vitamin D levels. Talk to your child’s doctor about vitamin D supplements, especially if your child doesn’t drink at least 32 ounces of vitamin D fortified milk each day. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s equally important that your baby get vitamin D. It may reduce their risk of allergies –- and more serious problems such as rickets.

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