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How too much vitamin D in pregnancy could contribute to baby's food allergies

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Too much vitamin D during pregnancy could mean food allergies for children

New research suggests taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy could mean food allergies for your baby. Findings published by the Leipzig Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ suggest the so-called sunshine vitamin, taken in excess, could disrupt normal immune response after birth.

Past research linked to food allergies and Vitamin D in pregnancy

The study authors explain vitamin D was linked to food allergies beginning in the 1990's. Scientists know when immune cells are low in cord blood the risk of food allergies is higher in infants and children.

The vitamin that is actually a hormone is essential for immunity and strong bones, but guidelines for how much is too much has been a subject of debate.

The current study was carried out to see if there was an association between maternal vitamin D levels during pregnancy and other factors that could signal higher allergy risk in children.

The research team matched vitamin D levels in pregnant women with levels found in cord blood of infants. In follow-up questionnaires, they asked mothers’ about food allergies in the first two years of life. Included in the study were 622 mothers and 629 of their children.

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The finding is based on analysis conducted by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg in Germany; published in the February issue of the medical journal Allergy.

The findings clearly showed children of mothers’ who had lower vitamin D levels during pregnancy were less likely to have food allergies, compared to those with the highest levels.

Allergies to foods like egg white, milk protein, wheat flour, peanuts or soy beans also correlated with high levels of immunoglobulin E in children.

Dr. Gunda Herberth – also from the Department of Environmental Immunology at the UFZ then tested specialized cells in cord blood that are essential for maintaining immune function and protecting from allergies; known as T-cells.

Higher vitamin D levels during pregnancy correlated with fewer regulatory T-cells

The study authors recommend pregnant women avoid taking vitamin D supplements, based on the finding, though there are other factors that likely affect food allergies in children. Spending time in the sun also boosts levels of the vitamin.

Weisse K, Winkler S, Hirche F, Herberth G, Hinz D, Bauer M, Röder S, Rolle-Kampczyk U, vonBergen M, Olek S, Sack U, Richter T, Diez U, Borte M, Stangl GI, Lehmann I.
Maternal and newborn vitamin D status and its impact on food allergy development in the German LINA cohort study.
Allergy 2013; 68: 220–228.

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