Pediatric Anemia and Vitamin D Levels

Meredith Atkinson, MD, MHS Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Division of Pediatric Nephrology Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore, MD 21287 MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Meredith Atkinson, MD, MHS
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Nephrology
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, MD 21287

 

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Atkinson: First, among a healthy cross-section of U.S. children, vitamin D deficiency defined as levels below 30 ng/mL (the currently accepted threshold for adequate vs. inadequate vitamin D) were associated with nearly twice the risk for anemia compared to those with sufficient vitamin D levels.  Secondly, when we looked specifically at Caucasian and African-American children, we found that children with the lowest vitamin D levels were at increased risk for anemia in both groups, but that the specific vitamin D level below which the anemia risk started to increase was much lower in the African-American children (12 ng/mL) than in the Caucasian children (20 mg/mL).


MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Atkinson: Although not unexpected, this is the first time that vitamin D deficiency has been associated with increased risk for anemia in otherwise healthy children.  Epidemiologically, we know that there is an increased prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in African-American compared to Caucasian children.  What was somewhat surprising, however, was that the vitamin D levels where this risk is substantially increased was so different by race.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Atkinson: Vitamin D deficiency may be associated with a variety of health effects beyond bone health, and if these findings are confirmed, supplementation with vitamin D may be an easy way to modify anemia risk.  Our current clinical approach to the management of vitamin D deficiency takes only the blood level into account.  However, these results bring up the concern that what may be a pathologically low level in one person may be adequate in another.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Atkinson: Similar analyses should be conducted in other populations to confirm this finding, and prospective studies would be needed to demonstrate that vitamin D supplementation  is actually beneficial in decreasing anemia risk.  Additionally, further study will be required to examine whether specific health outcomes associated with vitamin D deficiency vary between people by race or ethnicity.

Citation:

Vitamin D, Race, and Risk for Anemia in Children
Meredith A. Atkinson, Michal L. Melamed, Juhi Kumar, Cindy N. Roy, Edgar R. Miller, Susan L. Furth, Jeffrey J. Fadrowski

The Journal of Pediatrics – 10 October 2013 (10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.08.060)