Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Vitamin D deficiency in human beings was cited since long as the causative factor for the widely prevalent disease Rickets in early days of human nutrition studies and ever since then vitamin D therapy was a standard norm for one and all. As this vitamin is closely associated with bone development along with Calcium and Phosphorus every pregnant woman was put on Vitamin D administration believing that the new born babies will have strong bones. After all Rickets is a bone related disease with the affected population having weak and soft bones, often malformed resulting in a sub-quality life during adulthood. Now comes the news that it is better to be low in Vitamin D during pregnancy rather than gorging the "wonder pill" at least during pregnancy if the babies are to be spared the much dreaded food allergies during their early childhood. According to new studies too much Vitamin D during pregnancy can lead to such allergies later and more care is needed to avoid such a situation by every responsible mother wanting to avoid food allergy among their children in future. Here is a take on this new development.

The result was clear: in cases where expectant mothers were found to have a low vitamin D level in the blood, the occurrence of food allergies among their two-year old children was rarer than in cases where expectant mothers had a high vitamin D blood level. In reverse, this means that a high vitamin D level in pregnant women is associated with a higher risk of their children to develop a food allergy during infancy. Furthermore, those children were found to have a high level of the specific immunoglobulin E to food allergens such as egg white, milk protein, wheat flour, peanuts or soya beans. The UFZ scientists also got evidence fot the mechanism that could link vitamin D and food allergies. Dr. Gunda Herberth -- also from the Department of Environmental Immunology at the UFZ -- took a closer look at the immune response of the affected children and analysed regulatory T-cells in cord blood in particular. The cells are capable of preventing the immune system from overreacting to allergens, with the result that they protect against allergies. The UFZ researchers know from earlier analyses that the allergy risk increases in cases where too few regulatory T-cells are present in cord blood. The interesting result of the current research project: the higher the level of vitamin D found in the blood of mothers and children, the fewer regulatory T-cells could be detected. The correlation could mean that vitamin D suppresses the development of regulatory T-cells and thus increases the risk of allergy.

A cautionary note is called for while considering the findings of the above group because the conclusions are essentially based on monitoring of Vitamin D levels in pregnant women where those with high levels of this vitamin were found to have children with allergies more frequently. Vitamin D poses a severe challenge to nutritionists and physicians because it is formed in the human body only when there is adequate exposure to Sun and as the life style of people differ very significantly from region to region it is a difficult task to assess the adequacy or otherwise of Vitamin D in different people with different exposure profile. Probably the findings from the above studies would make Gynecologists  and nutritionists more cautious in dealing with pregnant women when it comes to Vitamin D content in their blood. A low level Vitamin D in pregnant women is preferable because children can always be administered this vitamin after birth to bring up to the desired level for strong bone development and other metabolic functions.    

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