New research has found as association between adequate exposure to sunshine during pregnancy, and its beneficial effects on children later in life. Researchers have found that children born to women in late summer or in early autumn are, on average, about 5mm taller, and have thicker bones, than those born in late winter and early spring.
Children born during the summer, or just after it, will have been exposed to more vitamin D than those born in winter or early spring, which has shown to help in the development of healthy bones, as one of the researchers of the study noted:
"Wider bones are thought to be stronger and less prone to breaking as a result of osteoporosis in later life, so anything that affects early bone development is significant,"
Sunlight causes the manufacture of vitamin D in the skin, which is essential for the growth of our bones, and as this research shows, vitamin D is crucial even in the womb. This is yet another study that proves how essential vitamin D is for the body.
Sayers A, Tobias J H. Estimated maternal ultraviolet B exposure levels in pregnancy influence skeletal development of the child. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and metabolism 2008 Dec 30.
"Conclusions: Maternal UVB exposure is related to bone size at age 9.9 independently of height and lean mass, suggesting vitamin D status in pregnancy exerts direct effects on periosteal bone formation in subsequent childhood."
Many other studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to a variety of illnesses. Another study last week revealed evidence to suggest such a deficiency during pregnancy and childhood could increase the risk that a child would develop multiple sclerosis.
"This study therefore provides more direct support for the already strong epidemiological evidence implicating sunlight and vitamin D in the determination of MS risk, and implies that vitamin D supplementation at critical time periods may be key to disease prevention."
Ramagopalan SV, Maugeri NJ, Handunnetthi L, Lincoln MR, Orton S-M, et al. (2009) Expression of the Multiple Sclerosis-Associated MHC Class II Allele HLA-DRB1*1501 Is Regulated by vitamin D. PLoS Genet 5(2): e1000369.
Vitamin D is important in maintaining bone health, in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and in helping the immune system.
The principle source of vitamin D is from exposure to the sun, but it can also be obtained from foods such as eggs, fish, whole grains, mushrooms and carob.