Sunday, June 22, 2014

Research Update on Vitamin D and Immune Response

Relying on the sun for vitamin D
can present challenges
As summer approaches, now is a good time to consider the importance of proper vitamin D levels for children. Although the human body can obtain vitamin D from exposure to the sun and, to a lesser extent, from food, deficiencies still abound. 

There are many factors that can prevent children from getting sufficient doses of vitamin D from the sun, including decreased time outdoors, more clothing while outside and high factor sunscreen. The growing prevalence of obesity is also another cause of vitamin D deficiency. 

The body must have vitamin D in order to absorb calcium and promote bone growth throughout childhood. Too little vitamin D results in soft bones in children (rickets) and fragile, misshapen bones in adults (osteomalacia).

While vitamin D’s crucial role in bone health is well-known, recent research has shown that vitamin D is also necessary for healthy immune response.

A study published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine suggests that vitamin D can play a vital role in proper immune system function. Scientists have found that vitamin D can actually regulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. According to the article:
Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity and an increased susceptibility to infection. As immune cells in autoimmune diseases are responsive to the ameliorative effects of vitamin D, the beneficial effects of supplementing vitamin D-deficient individuals with autoimmune disease may extend beyond the effects on bone and calcium homeostasis.
There have also been a number of randomized studies which associate lower levels of vitamin D with increased infection. The Archives of Internal Medicine reported in 2012 on a secondary analysis of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which studied almost 19,000 subjects between 1988 and 1994. Individuals with lower vitamin D levels (<30 ng/ml) were more likely to self-report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels, even after adjusting for variables including season, age, gender, body mass and race

It is this type of research that drives the need for high quality vitamin D supplements. The far reaching importance of healthy vitamin D levels, and the lack of a consistent supply of vitamin D through nutrition or sun exposure, supports the use of a tasty, appealing vitamin D supplement as an important part of a child’s daily nutritional intake.