Vitamin D might be associated with risk of lung infection in infants

We should get more vitamin D; no, we already get enough. A debate rages over how much vitamin D adults, children and pregnant women should consume for health benefits and disease prevention. Now research suggests that infants who are born with low levels of vitamin D may be at higher risk for lung infections caused by a common virus.

In the new study published online Monday in Pediatrics, researchers in the Netherlands assessed vitamin D levels in 156 babies at birth by measuring concentrations in their cord blood. After one year, 18 babies had developed a lower respiratory tract infection caused by a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). These babies, researchers found, were more likely to have had lower levels of vitamin D.

The researchers acknowledge that the relatively small number of babies – again, 18 – who became ill certainly limits the strength of their conclusions. The newborns with lower levels of vitamin D could have developed lung infections for other reasons.

But the results do echo similar research from December. In that study, newborns with low amounts of vitamin D were more likely to wheeze and develop respiratory infections than those with higher levels.


Both studies seem to support the use of vitamin D supplementation by the mothers to be.

The authors of the current study write in the discussion of their paper:

“Especially during pregnancy, doses up to 4000 IU per day may be needed to maintain optimal maternal and neonatal health.”

For pregnant women and everyone else, the “right” amount of vitamin D is the subject of debate. The Institute of Medicine released a report last year stating 400 IU is enough for most people, but that 600 would be better. No one, it said, should top 4,000.

But parents, take caution. The FDA warned in June last year that giving babies too much vitamin D—more than 400 IU per day—could lead not only to unpleasant nausea, vomiting and frequent urination, but also kidney disease.

Expect to be hearing more about vitamin D as the research continues.

As for RSV, it’s the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under 1 and, as the CDC notes, almost all children in the U.S. will contract it by the age of 2.

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