Vitamin D supplements can help kiwi children

16 February 2017

Professor Cameron Grant (HOD Paediatrics)

New Zealand children can benefit from vitamin D supplements that protect against acute respiratory infections, according to a new study.

The study that was published today in the British Medical Journal, combined 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 the 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 participants in these studies with vitamin D provided in the different studies from as short a time as seven weeks to as long a time as 18 months. The beneficial effect of vitamin D was larger for people with 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 percent of Pacific children and 11 percent of Māori compared with three percent 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.

For media enquiries email Suzi Phillips, Media Advisor Medical and Health Sciences.