Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy can lead to a substantial improvement in the bone density later in life . Children of mothers who lacked vitamin D supplementation were found to have weaker bones at 9 years of age.
Sunlight is very essential for the conversion of Vitamin D into a more active form that can be used by the human body. Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy or exposure of children to sunlight was found to result in a greater bone density among children. The research has been conducted at the Southampton General Hospital, the results of which are published in the Lancet.
The researchers measured the levels of maternal vitamin D levels during late pregnancy and also performed a parallel evaluation of the calcium content in cord blood. A crucial role played by vitamin D in the placental transport of calcium was hence highlighted. A follow up study was conducted 9 years later. The mineral content and bone mineral density of the children were assessed. It was found that vitamin supplementation played a very crucial role both in the health of the mother and the baby.
The results of this study have several valuable implications. First, it highlights the importance of maternal nutrition in the well being of the child. Secondly, it is also probable that low maternal levels during pregnancy could predispose to osteoporosis later in life. Third, vitamin deficiency of the mother rather than that of the child is very crucial in bone development and strength. 'This is completely new - no one has ever looked at the mother's vitamin D levels before', said one of the study authors.
The researchers further intend to find out if vitamin supplementation during pregnancy could lead to stronger bones in the babies, later in life. However, the researchers have also warned regarding excessive supplementation with vitamin D that could lead to vitamin toxicity.
'More vitamin D is not necessarily good. Therefore, no woman should take extra vitamin D in pregnancy unless recommended by their doctor', said Dr. Cooper.
'Maintaining bone health is important throughout life. Regular weight bearing exercise and a healthy balanced diet are all essential for keeping our skeletons strong as are stopping smoking and not drinking heavily', concluded Jackie Parrington, spokeswoman for the National Osteoporosis Society.