Pediatricians have discovered that children with vitamin D deficiency are at increased risk of anemia.
The findings, presented on May 1 at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Denver, Colo., show that vitamin D deficiency may play an important role in anemia.
Anemia, which occurs when the body has too few oxygen-carrying red blood cells, is diagnosed and tracked by measuring hemoglobin levels. Symptoms of mild anemia include fatigue, lightheadedness and low energy. Severe and prolonged anemia can damage vital organs by depriving them of oxygen.
Only 1 percent of white children had anemia, compared with 9 percent of black children. Black children also had, on average, much lower vitamin D levels (18) than white children (27). Researchers have long known that anemia is more common in black children, but the reasons for this remain unclear, although some suspect that biologic and genetic factors may be at play.
The new findings, however, suggest that low vitamin D levels in black children may be an important contributor to anemia.
"The striking difference between black and white children in vitamin D levels and hemoglobin gives us an interesting clue that definitely calls for a further study," said lead investigator Meredith Atkinson, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatric nephrologist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
While the findings show a clear link between low vitamin D levels and anemia, they do not prove that vitamin D deficiency causes anemia, the investigators caution.