Vitamin D supplements could benefit Kiwi kids

21 February 2017
Child at beach

Vitamin D supplements could help protect New Zealand children against acute respiratory infections, according to a new study.

That's the conclusion of a study published in the British Medical Journal, which looks at information from 25 clinical trials of vitamin D supplementation performed in 14 different countries including two studies conducted in New Zealand.

Across this entire age range and irrespective of a person’s vitamin D status when they joined each study, vitamin D supplements were shown to be safe and to have a modest beneficial effect in preventing acute respiratory infections.

The study combined information about more than 11,000 people aged 0 to 95 years who were given vitamin D supplements for varring times, ranging from seven weeks to 18 months. The beneficial effect of vitamin D was greater for those who had a vitamin D deficiency.

How the vitamin D supplement was given also influenced whether or not it was beneficial. If vitamin D was given as a daily or weekly dose then it was helpful, but if given as larger doses less frequently then it did not prevent acute respiratory infections.

“These findings have important implications for New Zealand where both vitamin D deficiency and acute respiratory infections are common”, says study co-author, University of Auckland Head of Paediatrics and Starship Paediatrician, Professor Cameron Grant.

“Both of these health problems are particular issues in young children, especially those of non-European ethnicity,” he says.

“For example, in Auckland, vitamin D deficiency severe enough to cause rickets is present in 24% of Pacific children and 11% of Māori compared with 3% of European children,” says Dr. Grant.

“Pneumonia hospitalisation rates in preschool children are several times higher in Pacific and Māori children than they are in European children,” he says.

“Vitamin D supplementation has the potential to prevent some of the excess respiratory disease that Pacific and Māori children experience and help them to experience better respiratory health.”

A new study funded by Cure Kids and being conducted by the University of Auckland at Starship Children’s Hospital is seeking to determine if vitamin D supplementation can prevent children from having repeated hospital admission with acute respiratory infections.