Researchers from Western Australia’s Telethon Kids Institute tracked vitamin D levels from birth to age 10 in Perth and found that children were at high risk of developing asthma and allergies as they grew older if they lacked the nutrient at a young age, Xinhua news agency reported.
The findings also showed that repeated bouts of vitamin D deficiency in early childhood were linked to higher rates of asthma at age 10, as well as allergy and eczema.
The study’s lead author Elysia Hollams on Tuesday said the findings showed that vitamin D plays an important role in regulating the immune system as well as promoting a healthy lung development.
“Our study is the first to track vitamin D levels from birth to asthma onset, and it has shown a clear link between prolonged vitamin D deficiency in early childhood and the development of asthma,” Hollams said.
“We’ve also shown for the first time that babies deficient in vitamin D have higher levels of potentially harmful bacteria in their upper airways, and are more susceptible to severe respiratory infections.”
But Hollams was quick to caution against rushing out and purchasing vitamin D supplements as more research needs to be done in the field.
“We still don’t know what the optimal level of vitamin D is for good lung health and immune function, and we don’t know if supplementation would address this issue, or if healthy sun exposure is what is required, given that vitamin D is an indirect measure of recent sun exposure,” Hollams said.
The study’s co-author professor Prue Hart said the findings were a significant endorsement that vitamin D levels may be important throughout childhood.
Hollams and Hart’s study was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology on Tuesday.