22 Mar Are low Vitamin D levels linked to allergies?
From cancer to heart disease, and food allergies, vitamin D appears to be implicated as the ‘wonder vitamin’.
Despite its name, however, vitamin D is actually a pro-hormone that is synthesized by the skin when it is exposed to ultraviolet radiation. Despite the body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight and its prevalence in our food supply, it is estimated that 50% of children and adults worldwide have insufficient amounts of vitamin D in their bodies, and 10% are deficient.
Whether these low levels can be implicated in disease prevalence and allergy prevention and maintenance is unknown, yet the correlations are interesting.
What does Vitamin D do in the body?
A primary role for vitamin D is in bone health. Working with calcium and phosphorus, vitamin D plays a large role in healthy bone maintenance. Beyond that, there is a growing body of research that demonstrates vitamin D’s relationship with other conditions. For example, infants who received 2,000 IU/day of vitamin D supplementation had an 88% lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes by the age of 32. Other research has shown that children given 1,200 IU of vitamin D per day for 4 months during the winter reduced their risk of an influenza infection by 40%.
With respect to immunity, vitamin D has been implicated in fighting conditions such as upper respiratory infections and tuberculosis.
Interesting data that has emerged from areas further away from the equator that experience lower levels of ultraviolet radiation show that: there are higher rates of childhood food allergy hospital admissions, increased epinephrine prescriptions, and up to 6 times the risk for peanut allergies than areas closer to the equator.
Forms of Vitamin D
There are two major forms of vitamin D: D2 (ergocalciferol), and D3 (cholecalciferol). Ergocalciferol both naturally occurs in foods and is used to fortify other foods. Cholecalciferol is synthesized in the skin and is naturally available in some animal-based foods. Humans are capable of absorbing both forms of vitamin D equally.
Despite our bodies abilities to synthesize Vitamin D from the sun, factors such as: reduced sun exposure from clothing, sun latitude, time of the year, increasing time indoors, use of sunscreens, and reduced intake of vitamin D fortified milks in children and adolesence all affect vitamin D levels.
How Can you Maximize Vitamin D Status?
First, knowing your blood levels of vitamin D can be helpful.
A normal range for vitamin D is 30-50 ng/ml. If you have a malabsorption syndrome such as: cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis, chronic fungal infection, lymphoma, or inflammatory bowel disease, it is especially important to have your levels assessed frequently.
While many dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, this nutrient naturally occurs in some foods which include: cod liver oil, swordfish, sockeye salmon, fortified cereals, tuna, fortified margarine’s, and eggs.
Supplementation may be necessary for certain individuals, however. Consulting with your doctor or a dietitian about dosing is recommended.