A new study from Turkey reports that preterm infants with higher vitamin D levels are less likely to develop respiratory distress syndrome – the number one cause of death for preterm infants – than those with low levels.
In the observational study, the vitamin D concentration in the cord blood of 81 preterm infants was measured and cases of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) were documented (1). The study results showed that the prevalence of RDS was significantly higher among preterm infants with low vitamin D levels: 52 infants with low vitamin D status were diagnosed with RDS, whereas only three preterm infants with vitamin D greater than 15 ng/ml had RDS. Higher vitamin D levels showed a 40% decreased odds of having RDS.
The researchers commented that vitamin D seems to plays a role in the respiratory system: the fact that vitamin D receptors can be found in the immune system suggests that vitamin D can bind to immune cells and help them fight off the bacteria that causes respiratory infections. Respiratory disorders tend to be more frequent during winter months when vitamin D is hard to make from sun exposure.
RDS is the number one cause of death for preterm infants. Preterm infants are often born with underde-veloped lungs in which leads to the lack of sufficient surfactant – an important substance that helps the lungs keep open. Without adequate surfactant, the infant has a more difficult time breathing and may not be able to supply enough oxygen to the body.