A new study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that lower vitamin D levels during pregnancy may increase the risk of their offspring getting eczema, at least in the first year of their life.
Eczema is a broad disorder and often an allergy-related disease that describes persistent skin rashes and irritability of the skin. Past research has proposed a persuasive hypothesis that vitamin D may play an important role in preventing allergic disease, including allergy induced eczema.
In this recent study, researchers led by Anderson Jones, PG Dip., at the School of Pediatrics and Child Health in Perth, Australia, measured cord blood vitamin D in 231 infants from an Australian prospective birth cohort conducted from 2002-2009. The authors also assessed maternal vitamin D intake, development of infant eczema, allergen sensitization, and food allergy.
The study population was recruited on the basis of:
- Availability of 2 or more frozen cord blood samples from the prospective birth cohort study
- Record of allergies assessed at 12 months of age, and
- At least 1 parent with a history of allergic disease
The authors found that concentrations of cord blood vitamin D status varied significantly by month of birth, and only 24.2% of participants had vitamin D levels > 30 ng/ml.
Cord blood vitamin D concentrations were significantly lower in infants who later developed eczema by 12 months of age (P=0.018). Each 4 ng/ml increase in vitamin D serum level reduced the risk of eczema by 13.3%. This association was significant even after adjusting for confounding factors. There was no association between cord blood vitamin D concentration and chronic wheeze, sensitization to common allergens, or food allergens.
The authors recognized limitations of the study, including a predominantly white population and a single assessment of cord vitamin D blood level. The authors conclude,
“This adds to the growing body of evidence that vitamin D status is important for many aspects of health and that interventions to improve vitamin D status in pregnancy may be an important part of preventive strategies.”
The researchers call for randomized controlled trials to further examine the relationship between vitamin D status and immune development.