We’ve all heard the advice from our parents and (if you are a parent) have probably reiterated it to your children: Drink your milk. It will help you grow up strong.
Apparently, according to researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, it can also help decrease your risk for developing allergies.
Research published just last month in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests that low vitamin D levels could increase the likelihood of children and adolescents developing both environmental and food allergies.
Michal Melamed, the study’s lead researcher, and her team studied blood samples from approximately 3,100 children and adolescents (under the age of 21) and 3,400 adults. One of the blood tests assessed was sensitivity to 17 different allergens. This was done by measuring Immunoglobulin E (IgE), a protein made when the immune system responds to allergens.
In the research team’s findings, while there was no link between vitamin D levels and allergies in the grown-ups, “[i]n children and adolescents, allergic sensitization to 11 of 17 allergens was more common.” Both environmental allergens, such as ragweed, and food allergens, including peanuts, were among the allergens found to be affected by low vitamin D levels.
While Melamed noted that more research is needed to get more definitive answers, they concluded in their study that “[v]itamin D deficiency is associated with higher levels of [allergic] sensitization in children and adolescents.”
“It is one link in the puzzle, or a first step,” Melamed said in a recent interview. “The latest dietary recommendations calling for children to take in 600 IU of vitamin D daily should keep them from becoming vitamin-D deficient.”
So how does your child get more vitamin D? According to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), fortified foods – including milk – provide the most vitamin D in Americans’ diets. One cup of either nonfat, reduced fat or whole milk, for example, contains approximately 120 IU of vitamin D. Many of the foods that contain high amounts of vitamin D are fish – salmon, mackerel and tuna are excellent sources of vitamin D.
Unfortunately, for picky eaters or the lactose-intolerant, getting vitamin D is a tougher task. While eggs and cereals do contain vitamin D, they provide far less than dairy products fortified with vitamin D. And even if you don’t face these hurdles with your children, today’s hectic lifestyles and processed foods present another obstacle to providing the right amount of nutrients – vitamin D or otherwise – to your child.
Depending on your situation, it might be prudent to look into supplements and multivitamins for your children. A proper nutritional supplement – not one filled with binders, fillers and other non-essential elements – can help provide your child an added boost of vitamins and minerals (vitamin D, included).
This might be especially important as children grow older, as they develop their own schedules and tastes. For example, your three-year-old might have been drinking the five cups of milk each day that is needed to get the recommended allotment of 600 IU of vitamin D. But while your 13-year-old might still drink and glass or two of milk each day, he might have added juice, water and – gasp! – soda to his daily routine.