Vitamin D supplements are being touted as the key to chipping away at the high rates of allergies among children in New Zealand.
Research published today by the University of Auckland's associate professor Cameron Grant said a child's "allergy sensitisation" to dust mites could be stopped if the supplements were taken during pregnancy and infancy.
Some of the study's data also suggests that the vitamin could be a tool to reduce asthma in New Zealand children.
Dr Grant says our country's normal diet is not rich in Vitamin D -- and that, combined with the country's sun-safe policy and our reluctance to use vitamin supplements, has contributed to 57 percent of Kiwi newborns having Vitamin D deficiency at birth.
He says the data was interesting as they had measured the effects "a year after the vitamin D supplementation was stopped".
"This implies that vitamin D caused some change in the child's immune system as it was developing in utero and during early infancy which then resulted in differences in the immune response to house dust mites at age 18 months," he said.
"Early life events, including those before birth, can influence a baby's later sensitivity to allergens," says Dr Grant.
He admits that while the vitamin's link to asthma was slightly tenuous, it was still an exciting breakthrough.
"It's the first study to show that correcting poor vitamin D status during pregnancy and infancy might prevent childhood asthma," he said.