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NEW research indicates that VITAMIN D is essential for the health of the body's innate immune system, which helps protect against infection.  See our ABSTRACT page.


In performing this research, we first obtained blood samples from 39 children having ambulatory surgery for placement of ventilation tubes in their eardrums, as well as in 5 children having other types of ambulatory surgery.  We measured blood levels of long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids (including omega-3 fatty acids), vitamin A, and trace metals.

The blood levels revealed three important findings:

  1. Study children had lower levels of an important omega-3 fatty acid known as eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, than adult controls.
  2. Study children had levels of vitamin A that were in the lower range of normal. This is consistent with previous reports in the medical literature.
  3. Study subjects, like other children, had lower levels of plasma selenium than adults.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acid, is important in preventing inflammation. Vitamin A is known as the "anti-infective" vitamin; and the trace metal selenium is an essential part of a free radical scavenging enzyme known as glutathione peroxidase, which is important in "cleaning up" free radicals. For our clinical studies, we therefore chose COD LIVER OIL as a source of both vitamin A and EPA, and used it with a marketed children's chewable multi-vitamin/mineral preparation containing selenium.


We performed a small, out-patient, prevention study using nutritional supplements chosen on the basis of the results of these blood levels. Eight children participated in our first, small prevention study; each had had at least one ear infection in the early part of the time period we were studying (September, 2000 through March, 2001). The youngest child in this study was nine months old and the oldest was almost 4 ½ years old. There were no problems with overdose or aspiration. Overall, these children took antibiotics for ear infections for 12.3 % fewer days when they were taking study supplements than before they started taking study supplements. Because this was not a placebo-controlled study, we cannot not rule out the possibility that this improvement might have occurred without study supplements.


The youngest child in our study was NINE MONTHS OLD. In such a young child, it is very important to CRUSH the vitamin/mineral tablet and to MIX both the vitamin/mineral and the cod liver oil WITH FOOD OR DRINK and then feed the mixture to the child. This is to prevent ASPIRATION, which is when a substance goes into the lungs instead of the stomach. In addition, the supplements used in this study contain VITAMIN A AND VITAMIN D. These vitamins are good for health when taken in the CORRECT DOSES. However, OVERDOSE WITH VITAMIN A AND VITAMIN D CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS. Please refer to the section on Dosing for further details about these important issues.


In another study, we treated 4 boys with chronic/recurrent sinusitis with escalating doses of the study supplements; they ranged in age from four years to almost 10 years of age. Three of the boys responded well to treatment; the fourth dropped out for administrative reason. Because this was not a placebo-controlled study, we cannot rule out the possibility that this improvement might have occurred without study supplements. Nonetheless, a trial of supplements might be reasonable before performing sinus surgery on a child.


In our final study, we randomized two pediatric offices with similar patient populations that were part of the same group practice. At one site, 47 children received the study supplements; at the other site, the families of 47 children gave us permission to review their children’s medical records as a control group (but these children did not get supplements). The children in this study were slightly over six months through 4 years of age; the average child was 2 years old. For the supplement group, there was a steady decrease in the average, monthly, pediatric visits for upper respiratory tract visits over the course of the winter and early spring; there was no change in this parameter for the medical records control group. We believe that use of these supplements to maintain the health of young children, especially during the winter and early spring, deserves further investigation.


Dr. Linday’s letter entitled "Nutritional supplements and pediatric upper respiratory tract illnesses," was published in 2006 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  Upper respiratory tract illnesses are a common cause of exacerbations of asthma; Dr. Linday therefore suggests that evaluation of the study dietary supplements for children with asthma is warranted.


This research was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board of The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. Written, informed consent was obtained from at least one parent before a child entered either study; assent was obtained from children over 6 years of age.


This work was supported in part by the Department of Otolaryngology of The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (New York, NY). MedToxÒ Scientific, Inc. (St. Paul, MN) donated the vitamin and trace metal analyses, performed while Dr. Pippenger (a co-author) was a consultant. J. R. Carlson Laboratories, Inc. (Arlington Heights, IL) donated the nutritional supplements used in the supplementation studies, but had no other role in the design or conduct of the studies.


The information on this web site is provided for educational purposes only; it is a general reference for healthcare consumers and providers; it is not a prescription for any individual person. It is important that you consult your child’s qualified healthcare provider before implementing any of the research discussed on this web site.

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Updated June 24, 2010