A new study published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy provides evidence of a role for vitamin D in reducing the risk of allergies during immune development through a reduction in the inflammatory response.
When a person is allergic to a certain food or pollen, the body initiates an inflammatory response upon contact with the allergen. This response signals the body to fight off these allergens, even though they aren’t necessarily harmful or dangerous.
The presence of vitamin D receptors on immune cells has led researchers to evaluate the importance for maintaining healthy vitamin D levels in a multitude of immune-related conditions, including allergies.
Outside of bone health, little is known for certain how vitamin D influences development during infancy.
Researchers from Australia recently looked at the vitamin D levels of infants and how they related to immune and allergy-related outcomes at 30 months of age.
Two hundred and twenty-five high-risk infants born to mothers with atopic dermatitis were recruited for the study.
They had their vitamin D levels measured right at birth and at 6 months of age. The researchers also looked at the body’s inflammatory response to certain allergens such as dust mites.
The researchers found that infants with a vitamin D level of 30 ng/ml or higher had lower inflammatory responses to dust mites by 6 months of age, compared to those born with levels of 20 ng/ml or lower.
Infants with a vitamin D level of 30 ng/ml or higher had a significantly reduced risk of developing eczema at both 6 months and one year of age.
“This suggests that improving vitamin D status in pregnancy or early infancy may reduce the development of allergic disease in high risk infants by inhibiting cytokine profiles associated with allergy,” the research team concluded.
The researchers call for clinical trials to assess how effective vitamin D supplementation is in strengthening immune development and preventing allergy in early infancy.