The more sun kids have been exposed to, the less chance they’ll develop food allergies and eczema. That’s the intriguing finding of a study of 7,600 children across Australia, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in early 2012.
In the group of 4- to 5-year-old studied, the children living in southern Australia, which has a climate with moderate temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight, were more likely to have both food allergy and eczema.
Meantime, the chance of having a peanut allergy were six times greater in the 8-to 9-year-old group from the south, when compared to those living in the sunny, northern regions, close to the equator. The odds of having eczema were twice as high for the southerners.
The findings reinforce the theory that a lack of sun exposure and vitamin D may play an important role in the onset of allergies.
“This study has further highlighted the possible link between food allergies, eczema and where you live,” says Katie Allen, a lead researcher and associate professor of immunology at Australia’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute near Melbourne.
“The results of our study provides further motivation for research into possible casual links into UV radiation and vitamin D levels in this disease group.”
Dr. Nick Osborne, of the U.K.-based European Centre for Environment & Human Health, led the research, which he presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) in March 2012. “We’re now hoping to study these effects at a much finer scale and examine which factors such as temperature, infectious disease or vitamin D are the main drivers of this relationship,” he said in announcing the findings.
Osborne warns, however, that “as always, care has to be taken we are not exposed to too much sunlight, increasing the risk of skin cancer.”