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Vitamin D could help fight food allergies in kids

ALANAH FROST, June 21, 2020 8:45AM Herald Sun

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Mum Kiandra Ward and son Toby, 13 months, are taking part in the study to examine if vitamin D can help fight childhood food allergies. Picture: David Caird media_cameraMum Kiandra Ward and son Toby, 13 months, are taking part in the study to examine if vitamin D can help fight childhood food allergies. Picture: David Caird

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A lack of vitamin D is being looked at as a cause of childhood allergies.

Researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute are examining whether vitamin D* supplements* could help prevent food allergies in infants and kids as part of a five-year study.

About one in 10 infants, and one in 20 children, suffer from food-related allergies in Australia, in what researchers say is a growing “allergy pandemic*.”

Associate Professor Kirsten Perrett said that given Australia already had the world’s highest rates of childhood food allergies, it was very important to stop any further rise.

“At this stage we have some hunches about why food allergy has been on the rise but we need to do these clinical trials to find out for sure,” she said.

“It’s a major, major issue for many Australians and we’re really wanting to turn back the tide to see if we can really make a difference.”

About 3500 babies, aged 6-12 weeks, will take part in the study.

It will see parents give their child a “drop” of vitamin D every day for their first year of life.

They will then be given an allergy test at the end of the 12-month period to see if the child is allergy free.

Health- food allergies Picture: Supplied media_cameraPeanuts and tree nuts, milk and eggs, and fish and seafood allergies account for about 90 per cent of all food allergies.

First-time mum Kiandra Ward and baby Toby, 13 months, took part in the first stage of the study last year.

Ms Ward said she had “never really considered” allergies being an issue for Toby — who was born healthy — but she took part in the study because she was worried by the increase in allergy rates.

“I was personally interested because growing up there weren’t many kids with allergies and nowadays there are,” she said.

“Toby came up negative, which is great (but) some kids aren’t allowed to have muesli bars or peanut butter and the amount of people that have allergies or intolerance issues — you see them every day.”

Allergies case study media_cameraKiandra Ward is happy Toby has no food allergies after taking part in stage one of the study at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Picture: David Caird

Prof Perrett said the Melbourne-based study would allow researchers to look at a large cohort* of children to see if vitamin D could play a role in preventing food allergies.

Vitamin D helps control calcium levels in the blood. It is needed for strong bones and muscles and overall health.

Sunlight is the best natural source of vitamin D but it is the also the main cause of skin cancer. This means many people avoid exposing their skin to the sun but in doing so they can also risk not getting enough vitamin D.

Prof Perrett said peanut and tree nuts, milk and eggs, and fish and seafood allergies made up about 90 per cent of all food allergies.

“Vitamin D could be part of the puzzle that we might be able to put in place to prevent allergies in future children,” she said.

GLOSSARY

  • vitamin D: a vitamin that is needed for strong bones and muscles and overall good health
  • supplements: something that is added to the diet
  • pandemic: happening a lot across Australia
  • cohort: a group of people who are similar

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How long will the study last?
  2. What is the rate of food allergies among infants and children in Australia?
  3. How much vitamin D will children in the trial be given and for how long?
  4. What is the best natural source of vitamin D?
  5. What are two of the most common food allergies?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITY
1. Make an infographic
Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly. Do an “image search” for the word “infographic” using your favourite search engine to see some examples. Then, create an infographic that visually presents three or more key pieces of information from this news article. You can choose to create your infographic by hand or digitally.

Time: allow 45 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; ICT Capability

2. Extension
Do you have any allergies? If yes, write a paragraph or more explaining about your allergy/allergies and the impact that it has on your life.

If you do not have any allergies, write some interview questions that you could ask somebody who does, in order to find out more about how allergies impact on people’s lives.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education, Personal and Social Capability

VCOP ACTIVITY
Aside from this, there is also this!
Brackets are a great literacy tool for adding aside comments, or comments that could be covered over and the sentence still makes sense. What’s inside the brackets is extra information.

They can be used for a variety of effects: to add more detail, to add humour, to connect with the reader etc.

My little brother, (the funniest kid I know) got himself into big trouble today.

Select three sentences from the article to add an aside comment to using brackets. Think about not only what you want to add to the sentence, but also what effect you are trying to create.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you be willing to take part in a scientific experiment?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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