Sunshine Makes Happy Lungs

Study finds low levels of vitamin D in newborns can lead to wheezing

December 28, 2010 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) According to a new study from Massachusetts General Hospital, the levels of vitamin D in newborn babies are associated with the emergence of respiratory problems.

The study, which appears in the January 2011 issue of Pediatrics, found that vitamin D deficiencies are linked to newborn children's risk of respiratory infections and wheezing.

Vitamin D, which the body produces in response to sunlight, is known for its promotion of bone health. However, evidence from recent studies indicates that the vitamin plays a crucial role in the immune system as well. According to lead researcher Carlos Camargo, MD, DrPH, of Massachusetts General Hospital, the link between vitamin D and wheezing is due to respiratory infections.

Camargo's past research has already shown that women who take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy reduce the likelihood of their children developing wheezing. His new study takes a closer look by analyzing blood levels of vitamin D in newborns, and how these levels relate to risk of respiratory infection, wheezing, and asthma.

Camargo and his team followed over 1,000 children from New Zealand, gathering data from a variety of physical measurements, including levels of 25-hydroxvitamin D (25OHD) from samples of umbilical cord blood in order to measure vitamin D status. The researchers gave questionnaires to the mothers 3 and 15 months later, then annually until age 5, asking about the prevalence of respiratory and infectious diseases in their children.

The study found that children exhibiting a lower neonatal 25OHD level were at an increased risk of wheezing in those early months. Although researchers found no link between 250HD levels and a diagnosis of asthma at 5 years of age, Camargo says that the causes of asthma and that which exacerbates asthma are likely different. As such, he believes that additional research may show that taking vitamin D supplements in the darker months may help avert those exacerbations.

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Review Date: 
December 28, 2010
Last Updated:
December 29, 2010