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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Low vitamin D status is linked with longer ICU stay among children

A recent study published in the journal Annals of Intensive Care discovered that vitamin D deficiency may be associated with a longer duration of intensive care unit (ICU) stay among children.

Researchers believe vitamin D is capable of reducing ICU patients’ risks for adverse events through its ability to modulate the immune response. Vitamin D receptors are expressed on immune cells, allowing vitamin D to increase the number of immune cells and to promote protective immunity.

Hospitalized patients face a greater risk for vitamin D deficiency due to a lack of physical activity and sun exposure. Research has clearly shown that vitamin D status relates to adverse health outcomes for critically ill patients, including infection, a prolonged length of stay and mortality. Though, this relationship has not been thoroughly studied in children.

Researchers from All India Institute of Medical Sciences recently hypothesized that vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent in children admitted to ICUs and associated with clinically important outcomes in children admitted to ICUs. In order to test this, the researchers conducted a prospective observational study over a period of 8 months in 101 children admitted to the ICU.

The children were between ages 1 month and 17 years old. Those who were already on vitamin D supplementation were excluded from the study. The most common diagnoses upon admission to the ICU were pneumonia (19%) and septic shock (19%).

Here is what they found:

  • The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency (levels less than 20 ng/ml) was 74%.
  • The median vitamin D status of vitamin D deficient children was 5.8 ng/ml.
  • 61% were considered severely deficient (levels less than 15 ng/ml).
  • Children with vitamin D deficiency were found to be older (4 years vs. 1 year) and more likely to receive mechanical ventilation (57% vs. 39%). However, these associations were not statistically significant.
  • The median duration of ICU was significantly longer in vitamin D deficient children compared to those who were not (7 days vs. 3 days; p = 0.006).
  • After adjusting for factors that may skew results (confounding factors), such as diagnosis and illness severity, the relationship between ICU duration and vitamin D status remained significant (p = 0.024).

The researchers concluded,

“We observed that the length of ICU stay was longer in children with ‘vitamin D deficiency’ with a mean difference in ICU stay of 3.5 days (95 % CI: 0.50–6.53; p =  0.024) as compared to those ‘not deficient’.”

The researchers call for randomized controlled trials to assess the safety and efficacy of vitamin D supplementation in critically ill children.


Tovey, A. & Cannell, JJ. Low vitamin D levels is linked with longer ICU stay among children. The Vitamin D Council Blog/Newsletter, January 2016.


Sankar, J. et al. Vitamin D deficiency and length of pediatric intensive care unit stay:  a prospective observational study. Annals of Intensive Care, 2016.

  About: Amber Tovey

Amber is the Program Manager for the Vitamin D Council. Her responsibilities include writing articles, editing, fundraising and brainstorming ways for the VDC to grow. Outside of work, she loves to enjoy the beautiful hills, beaches and sunshine in the Central Coast of California.