09th March. A new study finds vitamin D may be protective among
asthmatic obese children living in urban environments with high indoor air
pollution. The study out of John Hopkins University School of Medicine, funded
by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the
National Institutes of Health, was published in The Journal of Allergy and
Clinical Immunology: In Practice.
“The research team has identified many factors that make children susceptible to health problems from air pollution throughout Baltimore’s inner city,” said Kimberly Gray, Ph.D., administrator for the Children’s Environmental Health Research Centers program at NIEHS.
indoor air pollution is linked to greater respiratory problems
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 12 children in the
U.S. have asthma, which totals 6.1 million children nationally. Additionally,
asthma disproportionately impacts urban minority populations, such as black
children. Higher indoor air pollution, from sources such as cigarette smoke,
cooking, burning of candles, and incense, is linked to greater respiratory
problems, including worsening of asthma symptoms and more hospital visits.
of Asthma & vitamin D
an immune-mediated disease,” said Sonali Bose, M.D., lead author of the study
and assistant professor of medicine, pulmonary, critical care, and sleep
medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and adjunct faculty at
Johns Hopkins. “From previous scientific studies, we knew that vitamin D was a
molecule that may influence asthma by impacting antioxidant or immune-related
explained that at the time the study was being conceived, researchers were
seeing vitamin D deficiencies across the U.S. “It became very clear that
African-Americans were at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency, particularly
black children,” she said. “We were also noticing a heavy burden of asthma in
inner city minority children. It seemed as though vitamin D deficiency and
asthma were coincident and interacting in some way.”
between air pollution levels in homes, blood vitamin D levels, and asthma
tested three factors – air pollution levels in homes, blood vitamin D levels,
and asthma symptoms – in 120 school-aged children with preexisting asthma in
the Baltimore area. One-third of the study participants were also obese. The
children were evaluated at the start of the study and three times over the next
they found that having low blood vitamin D levels was related to the harmful
respiratory effects of indoor air pollution among obese children with asthma.
Conversely, in homes that had the highest indoor air pollution, higher blood
vitamin D levels were linked to fewer asthma symptoms in obese children.
surprised us the most was that the findings of the study showed the effects
were most pronounced among obese children,” Bose said. “This highlights a third
factor at play here – the obesity epidemic – and helps bring that risk to light
when considering individual susceptibility to asthma.”
they will work to identify ways to increase blood vitamin D levels in these
children, helping them be more resilient to environmental insults.
“One way to
increase blood vitamin D levels is to increase sun exposure, but that isn’t
always possible in urban environments, or in people with darker skin
pigmentation,” she said. “Another way is through dietary supplements or eating
more foods that are high in vitamin D, such as fatty fish, mushrooms, or foods
fortified with vitamin D, such as bread, orange juice, or milk.”
Senior author Nadia Hansel, M.D., director of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins, added “Another important take home point is how the complex environment comes together to contribute to extra burden of asthma in these low-income, urban communities. Our results suggest that improving the asthma burden in the community may require a multi-faceted approach.”