By: Randall Neustaedter, OMD
Several supplements taken during pregnancy have proven effective in improving the health of young children. For example, recent studies have shown some remarkable results from taking vitamin D. A higher Vitamin D status during pregnancy has been associated with less respiratory problems, language problems, and obesity for children. Let’s look at the studies.
In a study published in the January 2011 issue of Pediatrics, the umbilical cord-blood level of vitamin D was evaluated at birth in healthy newborns. Twenty percent of the newborns in this study had a cord-blood level that indicated a deficiency of vitamin D (less than 25 nmol/L). Babies with low levels of vitamin D in cord-blood had a higher risk of respiratory infections during the first months after birth. Those children with lower cord blood vitamin D levels also had a higher incidence of respiratory infections, wheezing, and allergies over a 5 year period. Wheezing episodes throughout early childhood were also more frequent in the group of children with lower cold blood levels of vitamin D at birth.
A study published in the July 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the children of women with a vitamin D blood level lower than 50 nmol/L during their pregnancy had an increased fat mass at 4 and 6 years of age. The children of mothers who had a vitamin D level of 50-75 nmol/L had an 8 percent reduction in fat mass compared to children of mothers with lower vitamin D levels. This finding confirms studies in adults that show that vitamin D supplementation assists in weight reduction.
A study in Pediatrics in February 2012 showed an association between low vitamin D levels during pregnancy and language difficulties in children born of these pregnancies. Vitamin D levels were checked at 18 weeks gestation. Then receptive language was assessed with the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—Revised at ages 5 and 10 years. Women with a vitamin D level of 46 nmol/L or lower were twice as likely to have children with language difficulties compared to women with vitamin D levels above 70 nmol/L.
Pregnant women should have their vitamin D blood level assessed. Supplementation in the form of vitamin D3 should be maintained throughout the pregnancy at a level high enough to bring vitamin D status to 70-100 nmol/L. This usually requires a dosage of at least 5,000-10,000 IU per day, or alternatively 50,000 IU per week for several weeks. Repeated checks of 25(OH) D during pregnancy will ensure that the dosage of supplementation is correct.
Camargo CA, et al. Cord-Blood 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and Risk of Respiratory Infection, Wheezing, and Asthma. Pediatrics Vol. 127 No. 1 January 2011, pp. e180-e187.
Crozier SR, Harvey NC, et al. and the SWS Study Group. Maternal vitamin D status in pregnancy is associated with adiposity in the offspring: findings from the Southampton Women’s Survey. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.037473 July 2012.
Whitehouse AJO, Holt BJ, et al. Maternal Serum Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy and Offspring Neurocognitive Development. Pediatrics. 2012 Mar;129(3):485-93. Epub 2012 Feb 13.