Vitamin D may lower infants' risk of eczema, study finds

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Experts say women who take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy can transfer benefits to their children

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Southampton explored how vitamin D may benefit infants. According to their findings, women who take vitamin D throughout pregnancy may help lower their babies’ risk of developing eczema. 

“We know that vitamin D can affect the immune system and the proteins that make up our skin,” said researcher Keith Godfrey. “We were interested to know if vitamin D supplements taken by pregnant women would have an impact on their child’s risk of atopic eczema. 

“Our findings showed a positive effect, which was more evident in infants that breastfed. This may reflect supplementation during pregnancy increasing the amount of vitamin D in breast milk.”  

Benefits of vitamin D

The researchers had 700 pregnant women involved in the study. Half of the women took 1,000 IU of vitamin D from the time they were 14 weeks pregnant through delivery; the other half took a placebo throughout their pregnancies. The team followed the women and their infants through pregnancy and the first four years of the infants’ lives. 

The study showed that taking vitamin D supplements helped lower the risk of atopic eczema through infants’ first 12 months of life. Ultimately, there was no link between vitamin D and eczema beyond the first year of infants’ lives. 

“We found no effect at 24 and 48 months suggesting that other postnatal influences might become more important beyond infancy or that the babies themselves might also need to be supplemented during the postnatal period for a sustained effect,” said researcher Dr. Sarah El-Heis. 

The team found that vitamin D was even more protective for infants who were breastfed than infants who were formula-fed. Breastfeeding for at least one month and taking vitamin D during pregnancy provided the lowest risk of eczema for infants involved in the study. Based on these findings, the researchers hope more women consider incorporating vitamin D supplements into their pregnancy regimens. 

“Our results showed that babies of mothers who received supplements had a lower chance of having atopic eczema at 12 months, which supports recommendations for vitamin D supplements to be routine during pregnancy,” Dr. El-Heis said. 

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