-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- Low levels of vitamin D
during pregnancy are associated with an increased risk of
complications in mothers-to-be and low birth weight in their
newborns, a new study finds.
The research shows an association but doesn't prove that
insufficient vitamin D causes complications. Still, taking vitamin
D supplements may help reduce these risks, the researchers
Researchers examined data from 31 studies published between 1980
and 2012. The studies had between 95 and 1,100 participants.
The analysis revealed that pregnant women with low levels of
vitamin D were more likely to develop gestational diabetes
(diabetes during pregnancy) and preeclampsia (high blood pressure
and protein in the urine). They were also more likely to have a low
birth weight baby.
The findings, published online March 26 in the
BMJ, are "concerning" given recent evidence that low levels
of vitamin D are common during pregnancy, particularly among
vegetarians, women with limited sun exposure and those with darker
skin, the researchers said.
The body makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
Other sources include supplements and certain types of foods, such
as fish. Milk is usually fortified with vitamin D.
While the study identified a significant association between low
vitamin D levels and an increased risk for pregnancy complications,
further research is need to determine whether programs to boost
vitamin D levels in pregnant women would reduce those risks, the
researchers at the University of Calgary in Canada wrote.
The findings support a goal of ensuring that all pregnant women
have adequate levels of vitamin D, according to an accompanying
editorial by Robyn Lucas, of the National Center for Epidemiology
and Population Health at the Australian National University in
She said that vitamin D "supplements, diet and sunlight
exposure" are all measures that "should be used together, with
care." Large, well-controlled studies are still needed to clarify
the association between too little vitamin D in pregnancy and birth
complications, she said in a journal news release.
The Harvard School of Public Health has more about
vitamin D and health.
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