The recent discovery that every tissue in the human body has vitamin D receptors and that vitamin D has pleiotropic effects has prompted an increased interest in this hormone. Vitamin D deficiency is widespread and on the increase. There is no consensus on the serum vitamin D levels to consider appropriate for global health, the cutoffs for its deficiency, or the doses to use for its supplementation. Vitamin D seems to correlate closely with host reactions against various respiratory infections. Epidemiological studies have shown that low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk of upper and lower respiratory infections in children and a shortage of vitamin D may contribute to asthmatic patients' symptoms and morbidity rates. There are studies highlighting associations between childhood asthma, fetal lung and/or immune development, and maternal vitamin D intake. An insufficiency of this vitamin also seems to be implicated in the onset of childhood atopy and food allergies. The hypothesis is that vitamin D could have a central role in these pathological situations and that it may represent a novel preventive and/or therapeutic strategy. This article reviews and discusses published data on the relationship between vitamin D and asthma and allergy, emphasizing the need for controlled, prospective studies on vitamin D supplementation to clarify whether it has a role in the prevention of and treatment for asthma and allergic conditions.
© 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S.