Maintaining optimal vitamin D levels is one of the most important strategies pregnant women should implement to keep both themselves and their new babies healthy.
Researchers in Britain have concluded pregnant women should be advised to take vitamin D, saying that there is a "strong case" to support the vitamin's benefits.
The paper says there is growing evidence linking vitamin D deficiency to health problems for pregnant women and newborn babies, and it will reduce the risk of diseases such as infantile hypocalcaemia and rickets.
An author of the study, said: "The incidence of vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women in Britain is unacceptably high, especially during winter and spring. "This is compounded by a lack of exposure to sunlight and the limitations of an average diet to meet the optimal need.
"In the most severe cases, maternal vitamin D deficiency can be life threatening to a newborn. We believe that the routine provision of a daily supplement throughout pregnancy would significantly decrease the number of mothers who are clearly vitamin D deficient, reducing related serious risks to their babies."
The study found that:
As a result, the researchers recommended that all mothers optimize their vitamin D levels during pregnancy, especially in the winter months, to safeguard their babies' health.
Vitamin D Is a Super-Nutrient
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient not only for healthy bones and teeth, but high levels of this nutrient in the body also strengthen the immune system and lead to substantially fewer colds, flu, and other viral infections.
Insufficient levels of vitamin D are linked to virtually every degenerative disease including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, chronic inflammation, as well as depression and autoimmune diseases.
Vitamin D is produced in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight and is also found in some foods like oily fish, liver and eggs.
People with dark-colored skin synthesize less vitamin D on exposure to sunlight than those with light-colored skin, therefore they will need more time in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D. The risk of vitamin D deficiency is particularly high in dark-skinned people who live in northern latitudes where there is less sunlight, and on the elderly, because they have reduced capacity to synthesize vitamin D in skin when exposed to sunlight.
Research Paper Details:
Hyppönen E, Boucher BJ. Avoidance of vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy in the United Kingdom: the case for a unified approach in National policy. Br J Nutr. 2010 Aug;104(3):309-14.