-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, March 19 (HealthDay News) -- Women's vitamin D levels
during pregnancy do not affect their children's bone health later
in life, a new study shows.
British researchers measured vitamin D levels in nearly 4,000
women during pregnancy and assessed the bone mineral density of
their children when they were about 12.
Bone mineral density is a measure of bone health. A lower
mineral content is associated with poorer bone health and a higher
risk of diseases such as rickets.
There was no significant association between a mother's vitamin
D levels during pregnancy and her child's bone mineral density,
according to the study published online March 18 in
The University of Bristol researchers also found that mothers'
vitamin D levels tended to be lowest during the first trimester of
pregnancy, and then increased as the pregnancy progressed. As
expected, vitamin D levels tended to be lower during the winter and
higher during the summer. The skin produces vitamin D in response
to sunlight and there are fewer daylight hours in winter than in
The study also said that nonwhite mothers and those who smoked
during pregnancy tended to have lower vitamin D levels, but this
did not appear to have any affect on their children's bone
The researchers said their findings suggest that U.K. health
guidelines may be overstating the importance of vitamin D
supplementation during pregnancy. Those guidelines recommend that
all pregnant and breast-feeding women should take a 10 microgram
vitamin D supplement every day.
Vitamin D helps keep bones and teeth healthy. Previous studies
into the effects of pregnant women's vitamin D levels on children's
bone health have been inconclusive, but this new study is more than
10 times larger than previous studies combined, according to a
journal news release.
"Suggesting to pregnant women that their child's future bone health depends on their pregnancy vitamin D status or that by taking supplements they will improve [their child's future bone health], ... I think our study challenges that [suggestion]," study leader Debbie Lawlor said in the news release.
In an accompanying editorial, Philip Steer, of Imperial College
London, wrote: "In view of the inconsistency in results [of
previous studies], it might seem unclear why vitamin D
supplementation is officially recommended for all pregnant and
He added: "The safest approach is probably routinely to
supplement pregnant women at greatest risk, as defined by the
(U.K.) guidelines." These include women of South Asian, black
African, black Caribbean or Middle Eastern origin, as well as women
with little exposure to sunlight or who were obese before
pregnancy, he noted.
Steer added that pregnant women whose diets included few sources
of vitamin D, such as oily fish, eggs, meat or fortified margarine
or breakfast cereal, might also benefit from supplementation.
Other research has suggested a connection between vitamin D
levels in pregnancy and infants' birth weight.
The Harvard School of Public Health has more about
vitamin D and health.
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