Blood carries oxygen to the cells of the body bound to hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. But scientists at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center have found that children are at high risk of anemia if they are missing an important vitamin. This nutrient can defend against anemia and keep the body producing enough hemoglobin to satisfy its oxygen demands.
After analyzing blood samples from more than 10,000 children, the researchers discovered that vitamin D is lower in children with low hemoglobin levels compared to kids who are non-anemic.
When the researchers looked at anemia and vitamin D by race, they found that black children had higher rates of anemia compared with white children (14 percent versus 2 percent) and considerably lower vitamin D levels overall. However, the black children’s risk for anemia didn’t rise until their vitamin D levels dropped far lower than those of white children.
“The clear racial variance we saw in our study should serve as a reminder that what we may consider a pathologically low level in some may be perfectly adequate in others, which raises some interesting questions about our current one-size-fits-all approach to treatment and supplementation,” says researcher Meredith Atkinson, a pediatric kidney specialist at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
Untreated, chronic anemia and vitamin D deficiency can lead to organ damage, skeletal deformities and frequent fractures, as well as premature osteoporosis in later life.