Kids with asthma may breathe a sigh of relief – thanks to vitamin D. New research suggests that children with asthma who have higher Vitamin D levels in their blood may be less prone to asthma exacerbation and have fewer asthma related hospitalizations, than children with lower levels. Vitamin D insufficiency has previously been linked to type I diabetes, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and rickets in children. Recently a link was found between low vitamin D status and risk for asthma. This new study focused specifically on children with asthma.
The scientists in the Childhood Asthma Management Program studied more than 1000 children with asthma over the course of four years. The researchers compared the children by vitamin D status, and factored in their age, BMI, family income, and severity of their asthma. What they found was that hospitalization for asthma attacks was 50% higher in children who had insufficient vitamin D status. While some children experienced more mild to moderate asthma symptoms when they had sufficient vitamin D status, they had fewer severe attacks. The researchers propose that one way vitamin D may help is by boosting the uptake and effect of steroid-based medications used to treat asthma. While asthma is still not considered a curable disease, minimizing the risk factors, like low vitamin D status and obesity, is a step in the right direction.
Parents whose children are obese, have food or environmental allergies, have dark skin, or have a family history of asthma should consider vitamin D supplementation for their kids. Experts also recommend that any child who is not meeting his or her daily 400 IU of vitamin D through food should take an age appropriate daily supplement. Encourage your kids to diversify their palettes by eating vitamin D-rich foods like salmon, sardines, fortified dairy products, and fortified cereals. For more information on meeting vitamin D needs, check out Protecting Your Kids Against Vitamin D Deficiency.
Lastly, (but perhaps most importantly) taking a vitamin D supplement does not help with weight loss. If you think obesity may be contributing to your child’s asthma attacks it’s important to monitor their diet. Stay involved in your child’s food choices and keep them active!