Low Vitamin D May Signal Increased Risk for Anemia

Blood sample analysis showed that children with lower vitamin D levels were nearly twice as likely to have anemia as those with normal vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D levels are consistently lower in children with anemia, according to a new study of 10,400 children in the Journal of Pediatrics. Blood sample analysis showed that children with vitamin D levels below 30 ng/mL were nearly twice as likely to have anemia as those with normal vitamin D levels.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, led by Meredith Atkinson, MD, MHS, reported that there was a racial difference in the results. Fourteen percent of black children had anemia, which was much higher than the 2 percent rate of anemia among white children. Black children had lower levels of vitamin D overall but their risk of anemia did not rise until their vitamin D levels were much lower than the white children. This variance suggests that current treatment and prevention targets for vitamin D may require further research, and it may not be possible to rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment and supplementation.

The mechanism behind the suggested association between vitamin D and anemia may involve vitamin D’s effects on red blood cell production in the bone marrow or its ability to regulate immune inflammation, which is known to trigger anemia.

Another researcher on the team suggested that low vitamin D levels might turn out to be a readily modifiable risk factor for anemia that can easily be addressed with supplements.