(NaturalNews) Newborns deficient in vitamin D are twice as likely as newborns with higher levels to develop respiratory infections, says a new study out of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Dr. Carlos Camargo and his team found that low blood levels of vitamin D are linked to markers of respiratory disease, indicating that increased sun exposure or supplementation with the vitamin by mothers during pregnancy may be the solution.
"Our data suggest that the association between vitamin D and wheezing, which can be a symptom of many respiratory diseases and not just asthma, is largely due to respiratory infections," explained Camargo in a statement. "Acute respiratory infections are a major health problem in children. For example, bronchiolitis -- a viral illness that affects small airway passages in the lungs -- is the leading cause of hospitalization in U.S. infants."
The team evaluated data from over 1,000 children in New Zealand. Researchers analyzed samples of umbilical cord blood taken from 922 of them and found that 20 percent were very deficient in vitamin D, with levels below 25 nmol/L. Average levels were 44 nmol/L, which is still considered low as many now consider levels as high as 100 nmol/L to be a healthy amount.
After comparing the data, the team found that infants with vitamin D blood levels below 25 nmol/L were twice as likely as infants with levels above 75 nmol/L to develop respiratory infections. And incidentally, children with the highest blood levels of vitamin D had the lowest risk of developing wheezing or other respiratory illness by age five, and vice versa.
Though the team did not observe a specific correlation between vitamin D and asthma risk, Camargo explained that vitamin D may actually play a very important role in mitigating asthma symptoms.
"There's a likely difference here between what causes asthma and what causes existing asthma to get worse," he said. "Since respiratory infections are the most common cause of asthma exacerbations, vitamin D supplements may help to prevent those events, particularly during the fall and winter when vitamin D levels decline and exacerbations are more common. That idea needs to be tested in a randomized clinical trial, which we hope to do next year."