Food and Behaviour Research

Donate Log In

Non-Western immigrant children have lower 25-hydroxyvitamin D than children from Western families

Omand JA, Darling PB, Parkin PC, Birken CS, Khovratovich M, Thorpe KE, Carsley S, DeGroot J, Maguirea JL, TARGet Kids! Collaboration (2013) Public Health Nutrition 17 1547-1554 Cambridge Journals Online

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here.



Healthy children (n 1540) recruited through the TARGet Kids! practice-based research network. Serum 25(OH)D concentrations of non-Western immigrants were compared with those of children from Western-born families. Children from non-Western immigrant families were defined as those born, or their parents were born, outside a Western country. Univariate and multiple linear regression analyses were used to identify factors which might influence this relationship.


Median age was 36 months, 51 % were male, 86 % had ‘light’ skin pigmentation, 55 % took vitamin D supplements, mean cow's milk intake was 1·8 cups/d and 27 % were non-Western immigrants.

Median serum 25(OH)D concentration was 83 nmol/l, with 5 % having 25(OH)D < 50 nmol/l. Univariable analysis revealed that non-Western immigrant children had serum 25(OH)D lower by 4 (95 % CI 1·3, 8·0) nmol/l (P = 0·006) and increased odds of 25(OH)D < 50 nmol/l (OR = 1·9; 95 % CI 1·3, 2·9).

After adjustment for known vitamin D determinants the observed difference attenuated to 0·04 (95 % CI −4·8, 4·8) nmol/l (P = 0·99), with higher cow's milk intake (P < 0·0001), vitamin D supplementation (P < 0·0001), summer season (P = 0·008) and increased age (P = 0·04) being statistically significant covariates. Vitamin D supplementation was the strongest explanatory factor of the observed difference.

Conclusions: There is an association between non-Western immigration and lower 25(OH)D in early childhood. This difference appears related to known vitamin D determinants, primarily vitamin D supplementation, representing opportunities for intervention.


This finding of lower Vitamin D in young children from non-Western immigrant families is not very surprising in itself.  

It does, however, add to the increasing evidence that some of the increased health risks found in such children might be partly triggered or exacerbated by their lower Vitamin D status.

In addition to poorer skeletal health, these including increased rates of autism, ADHD and other developmental or mental health conditions.

Abundant evidence shows Vitamin D status in the general population of the UK (and most other developed countries) to be sub-optimal - hence there is already a strong public health case for mandatory supplementation and/or food fortification. 

See also: