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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Food allergy, a tale of two studies

Food allergy in infants is a severe problem. By food allergy, I mean hives (whelps), airway swelling, vomiting or difficulty breathing after eating the food. Food allergy in children is mainly due to milk, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts. Sometimes, to confirm the diagnosis, clinicians will do a food challenge test, actually giving small but increasing quantities of the food in question, being prepared to administer adrenalin if the reaction is severe.

As regards infantile food allergy, it has reached epidemic proportions in the last 20 years for reasons no one understands. Food allergies occur in 6-8% of American infants. In Melbourne, Australia, 10% of infants have confirmed food allergies. The literature on vitamin D and food allergy is conflicting with some studies implying vitamin D protects against food allergy and some studies implying it causes it.

Sometimes, within a matter of weeks of each other, two studies appear in the literature, each of which that come to completely opposite conclusions. Read the conclusions of two recent studies on vitamin D and infantile food allergy. Two studies, one with 16 co-authors from Germany and the other with 23 co-authors from Australia, reached entirely different conclusions.

German study:

“Our study demonstrates that high vitamin D levels in pregnancy and at birth may contribute to a higher risk for food allergy and therefore argues against vitamin D supplement to protect against allergy.”

Weisse K, et al. Maternal and newborn vitamin D status and its impact on food allergy development in the German LINA cohort study. Allergy. 2013 Feb;68(2):220-8.

Australian study:

“These results provide the first direct evidence that vitamin D sufficiency may be an important protective factor for food allergy in the first year of life.”

Allen KJ et al. Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with challenge-proven food allergy in infants. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Feb 27.

First, let’s review the German study.

The authors measured 25(OH)D levels of 378 mother–child pairs during pregnancy and at birth. They found that vitamin D levels in both maternal and newborn blood was positively associated with parent’s report of food allergy and with food-specific IgE levels during the second year of life; meaning, the higher the vitamin D level, the greater the odds of food allergy

The adjusted odds ratio of reported food allergy was 3.66 (p=0.010) for maternal blood and 4.65 (p=0.008) for umbilical cord blood for food allergy during the second year of life. No food allergy was significantly different during the first year of life.

The average maternal 25(OH)D3 level was 22 ng/ml, while the mean infant’s level was only 11 ng/ml. 92% of the mothers supplemented with vitamin D, but the authors said that supplementation had no effect on 25(OH)D levels. Only 30% of the mothers had levels above 30 ng/ml. However, vitamin D levels were about twice as high in the German summer as in the winter for both mothers and infants, indicating that in Germany, infants and mothers get what little vitamin D they have from incidental sun exposure. It also means 25(OH)D levels decline dramatically in the fall and winter. According to Professor Reinhold Vieth, declining  25(OH)D levels appear to cause intracellular vitamin D deficiency.

The German authors concluded:

“The present analyses showed a positive association between maternal or cord blood vitamin D level and risk for food allergy in infants up to 2 years of age, suggesting that a high vitamin D level is a risk for the development of allergic diseases in early infancy.”

Next, let’s review the Australian study that found the opposite.

The authors did a cross sectional analysis of 577 one-year olds (344 with food challenge-proven allergy, 74 with positive skin tests but tolerant to food challenge, and 159 negative on both skin prick test and food challenge). They found that infants of Australian-born parents with vitamin D insufficiency (

The Australians didn’t kid around when they challenged the kids with positive skin prick tests. They defined a proven food allergy as whelps, nose and throat swelling, vomiting, or circulatory or respiratory compromise within 2 hours of taking the challenge food. I’m sure they had adrenalin and intubation apparatus available at the clinic.

The Australian authors reported,

“This is the largest study to ascertain objectively food sensitization status in an entire population-based sample, to use the gold standard measure of food allergy status of all infants who were sensitized, and to explore directly the association between serum vitamin D3 levels and challenge-proven food allergy status adjusting for a wide range of potential confounders.”

What are we left with? The German study implies higher vitamin D levels cause food allergy, and the Australian study implies higher vitamin D protects against food allergy. The only difference I could find is that the Australian children had much higher vitamin D levels than the German newborns. Perhaps it takes higher vitamin D levels to protect against food allergy. Surely more research is needed to allow doctors and scientists to systematically review all the research, so we can get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately, this may take many years.

In the meantime, I would like to know what readers think.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

26 Responses to Food allergy, a tale of two studies

  1. pf says:

    Looking back over the last 15 years when I have been increasingly plagued by food sensitivities and digestive woes, I realize that all started after I was diagnosed with pre-squamous cell skin cancer. I began extremely conscientious about sun avoidance throughout the year (I live in New England) as a result. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that my digestive issues began then in full force (having never had any problems prior) or maybe not. I supplement with Vitamin D now but have so many digestive issues I’m not sure how much I absorb. My vitamin D levels have hovered around 30 ng for the last three years. I also need vitamin A because I don’t eat dairy and have problems with keratosis/keratinization, so it’s been hard to find the right balance between the two nutrients. Again, maybe coincidence or maybe the apple cart got upset due to misguided hypervigilance about the sun.

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  2. IAW says:

    To: pf
    How much Vitamin D do you take and/or what is the maximum amount you have taken since your levels are “stuck” at 30?

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  3. pf says:

    I take 2-3k per day, 10k vitamin a.

    As soon as I go off vitamin a and just do vitamin d OR increase the vitamin d to 4k while keeping vitamin a at 10k, my gut and skin issues get worse, no matter how many carrots & vitamin a fruits/veggies I eat. Vitamin a is clearly an important nutrient to me along with vitamin D. My eye doctor has said I have some eye issues associated with vitamin a deficiency and my dentist said the same thing about keratinization on my tongue, and my dermatologist noted my keratosis pilaris is associated with vitamin a deficiency, and I have rosacea which flares on high vitamin D. So I know need vitamin A too because I don’t eat dairy or butter or liver and always have consumed lots of fruits & veggies. It is a challenge getting the thing right.

    2-3 k vitamin d & 10k vitamin a seems to be the right ratio for me in terms of helping my skin and helping my gut a tiny bit (not flaring at least). Only my vitamin d levels haven’t improved at his ratio and my gut is far from great.

    More info than you probably wanted….

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  4. IAW says:

    Probably not enough info. So what kind of Viiamin A are you taking? What happens if you go out in the sun (no sunscreen) in the summer? Do things get worse just like when you ingest more Vitamin D? Do you take any probiotics?

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  5. Rita and Misty says:

    Dear PF—I wanted to at least give you some info…sorry for abbreviated reply..today is quite busy here at my particular work institution.

    Take a look at:

    Gut Microbiota, Probiotics, and Vitamin D: Interrelated Exposures Influencing Allergy, Asthma, and Obesity… http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3085575/

    Also, rather than supplementing with pre-formed Vitamin A, please consider Beta Carotene….your body will convert what is needed…and I think this will interfere less with your body’s utilization of Vitamin D….

    Also please consider the following minerals: Magnesium, Selenium and Zinc…if you don’t already include them in your protocol: http://www.healthiertalk.com/banish-allergies-these-three-minerals-3514

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  6. Rita and Misty says:

    on preformed vitamin A versus beta carotene…


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  7. mbuck says:

    It’s distressing to me that good studies should come to diametrically opposite conclusions. Within the given parameters, both studies are, in fact, correct.

    It seems to me you’ve put your finger on the culprit, vitamin D levels in both studies. Just as 45 ng/ml.

    The German study states: “suggesting that a high vitamin D level is a risk for the development of allergic diseases in early infancy”, but does not define ‘high level’ in the conclusion. If they used ng/ml or nmol/l it would be easier to sort out these data and make sense of it all.

    As stated in previous posts, the body triages D3 levels and puts off less immediate needs in favor of more urgent ones.

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  8. Rita and Misty says:


    Back a few weeks ago, I wrote the below piece with respect to the German study. I posted it on the VDC Facebook page…don’t know if you caught it or not…


    On February 27, 2013, data from The Leipzig Helmholtz study was made public. It indicated a link between high vitamin D levels in expectant mothers and an increased risk of childhood food allergies in the first two years of life.

    Concluding remarks from this study stated that “pregnant women should avoid taking vitamin D supplements,” as supplementation “appears to raise the risk of children developing a food allergy after birth.”

    These remarks were drawn from a survey conducted by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, and published in the February issue of the medical journal Allergy.


    I am deeply troubled by this study for various reasons:

    1. To assess the occurrence of food allergies during the first 2 years of the children’s lives, information was conducted by survey method. Mothers were requested to complete questionnaires regarding the occurrence of food allergies during these first two years. Collection of data via instrument of personal survey most certainly yields only subjective results. Allergy symptoms are open to interpretation of the mother; and answers, therefore, are based on her memory and personal feelings. Not sound data in my opinion.

    2. The researchers fully admit that “the occurrence of food allergies is undoubtedly affected by many other factors than just the vitamin D level.” Then, how can it be concluded that high levels of vitamin d are the cause of increased childhood allergies?

    These researchers have apparently forgotten the dangers associated with an expectant mother’s low level of Vitamin D.
    Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy carries with it extreme danger to the child.

    Very serious health conditions can occur to children born from Vitamin D deficient moms. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

    1. Craniotabes

    2. Rickets

    3. Autism

    4. Increased risk of Diabetes I

    5. Increased risk of Schizophrenia

    6. Increased risk of Epilepsy

    7. Increased risk of Asthma

    Now I ask you, what expectant mom would risk her child developing craniotabes, rickets, autism, diabetes I, schizophrenia, epilepsy, or asthma?

    I’ll certainly take the possibility of my child developing food allergies during the first two years of his life versus developing any of those other diseases, thank you very much!

    And I didn’t even touch of the health benefits of adequate vitamin d in terms of the mother’s health: fewer C-sections, less gestational diabetes, and fewer incidences of preeclampsia.


    What were these researchers thinking by recommending that expectant moms not supplement with Vitamin D?

    Or WAIT, is that the problem—the researchers weren’t thinking at all.

    Another example of research at its worst.

    :) Be well!

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  9. pf says:

    @IAW when I got out in the sun with no sunscreen I get massive outbreak of rosacea. Literally my skin cannot tolerate a spot of summer sunshine without a huge flare up. I think that I’ve gotten to this point because the absence of vitamin D for several years after pre-cancer findings dis-regulated my system, especially gut, so that now I am having that paradoxical reaction to summer sunshine–it should make things better, but it makes things worse. I take probiotics, too.

    @Rita I eat so many yellow/orange veggies my skin turns yellow, palms of my hands and soles of my feet, and still have the Vitamin a deficiency symptoms. Two docs said I need to take pre-formed because the yellow veggies don’t seem to be doing it all which is not to say I have stopped eating them or think they don’t have other benefits. For example, just had mashed sweet potatoes with coconut milk and big green salad with Easter ham for lunch, yum! I have been low on magnesium and have just started a higher dose. No selenium in my multi so will look for one with it.

    Thanks for comments. I really appreciate your thoughts. The vibe on this website is smart and helpful.

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  10. Rita and Misty says:


    I prefer to take my minerals as separate entities rather than in a multi-mineral formula (I’m anal this way)… I also think chelated minerals are better absorbed and utilized by our bodies…many people like Albion method of chelation.

    Magnesium, Selenium, Boron, Zinc and Iodine (Iodoral) are my personal favorites.

    Have you tried Astaxanthin? I have good luck with this…


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  11. Rita and Misty says:
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  12. mbuck says:

    Hm, my post seems to have gone through the digital shredder. It was probably the inclusion of the less-than and greater-than symbols [shift-comma and shift-period].

    Regarding fb and other social media, I avoid those based on experiences of friends who have been infected with malware.

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  13. Any medications involved that might cause skin sensitivity?

    Also I’m curious about magnesium and vit D- the author of Magnesium Miracle book says D raises Mg needs. Some who take large D have problems because of this.

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  14. pf says:

    I don’t take any medications. However you raise an interesting point. I have tested low on magnesium despite taking it. Along the lines that you are suggesting, I found this article, which cites Dr. Cannell, among other experts, about the importance of magnesium:
    Thank you rkcannon. I will experiment with higher dose of more absorbable type, and see what happens.

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  15. Rita and Misty says:

    Vitamin D and the digestive system
    Walter Stumpf


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  16. IAW says:

    To: pf
    Directly from http://phpstack-823148-2829364.cloudwaysapps.com
    “If one experiences any of the following symptoms due to supplementing with vitamin D – or with sun exposure – a magnesium deficiency is most likely the reason why:”
    •irritability or anxiety
    •muscle cramps/twitching
    Please let us all know later if more magnesium solves the problem. If it does not, I have one more suggestion. Ask Brant from the council for my email address. Good luck!

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  17. Micelized Vitamin A liquid may be a more therapeutic delivery system for A w/o interfering as much with the D.

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  18. pf says:

    @IAW wow that makes it clear that I need to try more magnesium. I will let you know. Thanks much

    @samoapat Good point. I think micellized A is used when there is digestive issues since it is better absorbed.

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  19. pf says:

    @rita and misty thanks for the article. I’m sure my gut needs the D. Maybe the magnesium will help straighten out the dysregulation.

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  20. Rita and Misty says:


    I do take 600 mg mag daily…along with all the cofactors..

    It’s important to take a good probiotic…I also take a good prebiotic.

    There seems to be a growing school of thought regarding gut flora health and Vitamin D deficiency.

    I’m not a medical researcher…only someone dedicated to learning…but my instincts tell me that Vitamin D is the master hormone and good health flows from correcting Vitamin D deficiency (not very scientific, sorry…my specialty is activism… :) )

    Be well…

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  21. PF – suggest you check out Dr Carolyn Dean’s website – she is the author of The Magnesium Miracle”. Transdermal magnesium chloride may be of assistance to you – either through foot or bath soaks or dilute magnesium oil and apply to the skin (due to your skin problems) but apply to lower legs, back or arms rather than soft skin such as belly, thighs, face, neck etc just to be sure you don’t cause irritation. Bowel tolerance is usually the only problem with high doses of magnesium. For many people over 200 or 300 elemental magnesium will cause loose stools. Suggest you choose magnesium citrate, orotate or amino acid chelated magnesium for better absorption.

    Query here about a typo in text “whelps” are actually puppies (whelping is when a female dog is giving birth to puppies), “welts” are hives.

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  22. GUT PROBLEMS: Vitamin D formulation
    Bio-D-Mulsion Forte details at http://is.gd/gutvitd
    The drops are low cost, not much more than the cost of vitamin D capsules from other companies.
    The form which appears to both not cause ANY intestinal problems is PICO magnesium.
    Google: it – $40 a bottle – which I bought and liked
    Amazon sells what appears to be identical Pico Magnesium liquid for just $20 a bottle.

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  23. re gut flora health mentioned by @pf, the huge amount of GE soy eaten in USA(compared to here in NZ) does have a bearing on gut flora both from the lectins in soy which cause physical deterioration of the villi, hence destroying VDR’s therein, and from the glyphosate based herbicides which are present in foods(both GE and non-GE ). As Mg is necessary to form calcitriol and absorption will be affected by the above, low Mg will affect the Vit D levels; so maybe these factors could be included in future studies. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine, in 2009, advised the removal of GE foods from the diet and DR M.W.Fox advises the same for your pets which suffer from allergens in food also( I’m a veterinarian)

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  24. DrMargaretTaylor says:

    With all those malabsorptions – magnesium, vit D and A, digestive woes, keratinisation excess, what about gluten intolerance and or celiac disease? Average time to diagnosis is 9 years. Blood tests are not as conclusive as a month on gluten free diet – but worth doing the test first, in the rare case where it is positive.

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  25. Rita and Misty says:

    Greetings (and salutations)!

    Weisse K, et al. Maternal and newborn vitamin D status and its impact on food allergy development in the German LINA cohort study. Allergy. 2013 Feb;68(2):220-8.

    Here is link to full text:

    If for some reason it doesn’t open correctly, please email me at [email protected], and I will send you the adobe full text version.


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  26. pf says:

    @Dr.Taylor–Good catch!! I do have gluten intolerance and SIBO which kicked in around the same time as I became hypervigilant about sun avoidance and developed many food sensitivities. Glutamine, the go to for gut repair, does not work for me, serious D and discomfort. Hoping that the vitamin D with increased mag might settle everything down.

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