Perth researchers have discovered that children who are vitamin D deficient are more likely to develop a number of conditions including asthma, eczema and allergies.
Less sun = more asthma
The Telethon Kids Institute studied a group of children under 10 who were genetically at risk of asthma.
They found out that those who spent less time in the sun were more likely to suffer from asthma, allergies and eczema.
The study also revealed that the first two years of childhood are a ‘critical period’ for the establishment of respiratory health and that the right amount of vitamin D can keep further problems from developing.
Lead researcher, Dr Elysia Hollams, explained that this is because vitamin D is vital for healthy immune function.
Dr Hollams said that vitamin D helps ‘turn on’ our immune response to allergens, advising our bodies to ‘ignore’ them.
“Vitamin D can help to promote tolerance to allergens,” she told the ABC.
“That means our immune system can ignore things that are harmless to it. When we get allergies is when our immune system has a response to something that it should just ignore.”
How much is enough?
While this research is potentially life-changing for many kids and families, Dr Hollams said the jury is still out on just how much vitamin D is healthy for kids.
“That’s the million dollar question, we really don’t even know what range of vitamin D is optimal for normal immune development,” she said.
She suggests rather than using vitamin D supplements, that kids spend plenty of time outside.
“As vitamin D is a marker of sun exposure, we don’t know whether just giving supplements can give the full benefit of healthy sun exposure,” Dr Hollams explains.
The study’s co-author Prue Hart also reminds parents to take the findings into consideration while keeping their kids sun safe.