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Research finds no relationship between food allergies and vitamin D status in children

Posted on: May 12, 2017   by  Amber Tovey



An estimated six million children have food allergies in the United States, with the prevalence continuing to rise over the past two decades. Currently, no treatment for latent food allergies exists; thus, methods focus on prevention or management.

Food allergies occur as a result of the immune system mistakenly attacking a harmless food protein, known as an allergen. The immune system then produces excessive amounts of an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE), which releases histamine and other chemicals to fight the allergen. Histamine causes an immediate inflammatory response.

Vitamin D possesses anti-inflammatory and immune strengthening properties. Therefore, researchers have hypothesized that vitamin D may be linked to food allergies. However, studies have produced conflicting results.

Researchers recently conducted a meta-analysis to assess the available research on vitamin D and food allergies. The meta-analysis included five studies, with a total of 5105 children.

The meta-analysis revealed no significant association exists between vitamin D status and risk of food allergy in children. They went on to conduct sub-analyses, assessing the results of studies that used different cutoffs of vitamin D status, specifically 20 versus 30 ng/ml.

Only one study used a cutoff of 30 ng/ml. This study found that children with levels below 30 ng/ml were more likely to have a food allergy than children with vitamin D levels above or equal to 30 ng/ml (p = 0.04). All four studies that compared the incidence of food allergies between children with vitamin D levels below 20 ng/ml to levels of 20 ng/ml or higher found no significant differences (p = 0.62).

The researchers call for larger studies before definitively declaring whether vitamin D plays a role in food allergies. They also stated that future studies need to use the vitamin D status needed for optimal immune health, which remains a topic of debate.

The study concluded,

“Until those studies are completed, we have insufficient evidence to support the role of vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency in sub-jects with established food allergy.”

The Vitamin D Council and the Endocrine Society advises everyone to keep his or her vitamin D level above 40 ng/ml. In the above analysis, there were too few children > 40 ng/ml in any of the five studies to do an analysis.

The mechanism of vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory actions are well known. Vitamin D increases a powerful anti-inflammatory cytokine (IL-10), which has a calming effect on the immune system. Vitamin D also increases the amount of T-regulatory cells (TREG). TREGs reduce levels of an inflammatory cytokine (IL-2). These two actions should reduce inflammation.

I suspect the reason they didn’t an association in this meta-analysis is because almost all the children were deficient. Thus, the researchers could not properly assess the benefits associated with healthy vitamin D levels.


Tovey, A. & Cannell, JJ. Research finds no relationship between food allergies and vitamin D status in children. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, May 10, 2017.


Willits, E. Zhen, W. Jin, J. & et al. Vitamin D and food allergies in children: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Allergy & Asthma Proceedings, 2017

1 Response to Research finds no relationship between food allergies and vitamin D status in children

  1. [email protected]

    Inadequate evidence for the conclusion the headline reached. First the studies using 20 ng. – they are comparing children with a level less than 20 ng with mostly children who have levels still below 30 ng. Second, the one study that did compare below 20 to above 30 did prove a connection. One would almost think that this study was deliberately constructed with this fault because the intention was to show there was no benefit, therefore discourage the use of vitamin D in foo allergy prone children, (and therefore reducing drastically medical expenditures).
    Robert Baker MD

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