Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Sunlight ‘helps prevent food allergies’:

There's nothing healthy about a tan - except perhaps its ability to ward off food allergies and eczema.
Date: February 08 2012
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A new Australian study has found that people who are exposed to more sunlight may be less likely to suffer from the ailments.

The study of 7600 Australian children found that those in southern parts of the country were more likely to develop eczema and food allergies than those who lived further north.

Professor Katie Allen said the results support the hypothesis that sunlight, or more specifically vitamin D, may be a contributing factor to the development of food allergies and eczema.

"We know that people in Queensland get more exposure to sunlight, and sunlight produces more vitamin D in your skin," Prof Allen told AAP.

"The research lends to the already existing hypothesis that the further you are from Equator the more likely you are to have food allergies and eczema."

Australia has among the highest reported food allergy rates in the world and Prof Allen said southern states were struggling to keep up with demand for allergy testing.

"It's only indirect evidence, but our waiting lists for allergy testing are more significant in the south than the north," she said.

"It's really blowing out the medical system's ability to cope with it in the south."

While the study by Murdoch Children's Research Institute found a possible link between Vitamin D and eczema and food allergies, a causal relationship is yet to be proven.

But should a direct link be proven, the solution is relatively simple. Vitamin D is found not only in sunlight but in certain foods such as eggs and fish.

"The really exciting thing about this is it's extremely amendable to public health measures," Prof Allen said.

"We just need to look at vitamin D levels and determine how much is too much and how much is too little and how much will prevent food allergies."

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