The risk for asthma and wheezing in the first 10 years of childhood have been linked to a low maternal intake of vitamins D and E, according to study results recently published in Pediatric Pulmonology. After puberty, asthma is largely determined by postnatal factors.

This prospective study included 1924 child participants born to 2000 recruited pregnant women. Researchers assessed maternal intake of vitamins D and E through a questionnaire on food frequency, and a final respiratory questionnaire was administered to 1863 children at age 15. Earlier data on childhood asthma were collected at ages 1, 2, 5, and 10 years.

Maternal plasma α-tocopherol was also measured and transformed logarithmically with adjustments for gestational age and cholesterol. To assess the correlation between maternal vitamin intake and age of asthma diagnosis in children, Cox proportional hazards were used.

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By age 15, 39% (n=747) of children reported data on symptoms, and 88% (n=1689) had available healthcare data. Children between the ages of 1 and 15 whose mothers had a greater prenatal intake of vitamins D and E had lower rates of asthma and wheezing, with a hazard ratio of 0.87 (95% CI, 0.78-0.98) per additional quartile of vitamin D intake and a hazard ratio of 0.88 (95% CI, 0.78-0.98) for vitamin E.

By age 15, no associations could be found between asthmatic symptoms and maternal vitamins D and E intake, although those 15-year-olds whose mothers had taken high levels of the vitamins had lower doctor-diagnosed asthma (odds ratio, 0.46; 95% CI, 0.25-0.86) and “asthma ever” rates (odds ratio, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.28-0.94) than those with low maternal intake.

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The researchers concluded that “there is an association between risk of early childhood asthma and a maternal diet characterized by low intakes of vitamins E and D. As the lungs grow towards puberty, so the effect diminishes and disappears, but leaves behind a trail of family anxiety and health service costs.”


Devereux G, Craig L, Seaton A, Turner S. Maternal vitamin D and E intakes in pregnancy and asthma to age 15 years: a cohort study [published November 13, 2018]. Pediatr Pulmonol. doi:10.1002/ppul.24184