Low levels of vitamin D linked to allergies in children

Previous research has shown a possible link between low vitamin D levels and allergy and now a new study (1) involving over 3,000 children has found that low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased likelihood that children will develop allergies. 

The researchers (1) looked at the blood serum vitamin D levels of over 3,000 children and 3,400 adults who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in the United States.  Blood tests were also used to assess the sensitivity to 17 different allergens – allergic response was tested by measuring levels of a specific protein, called Immunoglobulin E (IgE), which is made when the immune system responds to allergens.  A vitamin D level of less than 15ng/mL was classed as vitamin D deficient and a level of 15-29 ng/mL was insufficient.  Data was adjusted for known potential confounders such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, obesity, low socioeconomic status, frequency of milk intake, daily hours spent watching television, playing videogames, or using a computer and vitamin D supplement use.

Results (1) showed that there was no association observed between vitamin D levels and allergies in adults.   However in children and adolescents, low vitamin D levels correlated with sensitivity to 11 of the 17 allergens tested, including both environmental allergens such as ragweed, oak, dog, cockroach and food allergens such as peanuts.  Children who had vitamin D deficiency were 2.4 times as likely to have a peanut allergy than were children with sufficient levels of vitamin D (more than 30 ng of vitamin D per mL of blood) (2).

The authors conclude that (1) “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with higher levels of IgE sensitization in children and adolescents. Further research is needed to confirm these findings”.  More research is needed since the current study only shows that there is an association between low vitamin D levels and allergy in children, it does not prove that low vitamin D levels cause allergy. 

There has been much research into vitamin D and health recently so ensuring good blood levels is probably a good idea.  A test can be done by your medical doctor to see what levels you and/or your children have and it is always best to check with your medical doctor prior to starting any supplement regimen.  The main author of the study notes that “”The latest dietary recommendations calling for children to take in 600 IU of vitamin D daily should keep them from becoming vitamin-D deficient,” (2)


(1) Sharief S et al.  2011. Vitamin D levels and food and environmental allergies in the United States: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2011.01.017

(2) Press release.  Albert Einstein College of Medicine (2011, February 24). Low vitamin D levels linked to allergies in kids. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 25, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/02/110224103244.htm

Written by Ani Richardson