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Low Vitamin D Levels Raise Anemia Risk in Children

October 22, 2013

2 Min Read
Low Vitamin D Levels Raise Anemia Risk in Children

BALTIMOREChildren may benefit from increased intake of foods rich in vitamin D, such as salmon, mushrooms and fortified milk or yogurt, as children with low vitamin D levels have been linked to increased risk of anemia, according to new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Childrens Center studied blood samples from more than 10,400 children, tracking vitamin D and hemoglobin levels to capture the interaction between vitamin D deficiency and anemia. Untreated, chronic anemia and vitamin D deficiency can have wide-ranging health consequences, including organ damage, skeletal deformities and frequent fractures, and can lead to premature osteoporosis in later life.

Results showed vitamin D levels were consistently lower in children with low hemoglobin levels compared with their non-anemic counterparts. The sharpest spike in anemia risk occurred with mild vitamin D deficiency; these children had nearly twice the anemia risk of those with normal vitamin D levels.

The results are considered evidence of the interplay between low vitamin D levels and hemoglobin, not proof of cause and effect, researchers said. Several mechanisms could account for the link between vitamin D and anemia, including vitamin Ds effects on red blood cell production in the bone marrow or its ability to regulate immune inflammation, a known catalyst of anemia.

Researchers found a difference in results depending on raceblack children had higher rates of anemia compared with white children (14% versus 2%) and considerably lower vitamin D levels overall. However, anemia risk in black children didnt rise until vitamin D levels dropped far lower than those of white children.

Anemia, which occurs when the body doesnt have enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells, is believed to affect one in five children at some point in their lives, experts say. Several large-scale studies have found severe vitamin D deficiency in about a tenth of U.S. children, while nearly 70% have suboptimal levels.

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