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Study finds sunshine alone not enough for vitamin D during pregnancy

Study finds sunshine alone not enough for vitamin D during pregnancy
May 20, 2015

Sunshine alone will not provide enough vitamin D to pregnant women, even in hot and sunny Mediterranean climates, a study has found. Despite high levels of sunshine, low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy are common in Mediterranean women, according to the study released at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Dublin. This finding could help lower the prevalence of early childhood diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency.

It’s commonly believed that sun exposure is key to maintaining normal levels of vitamin D and therefore assumed that Mediterranean women are at lower risk of hypovitaminosis than those from Northern Europe. However, in countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, vitamin D deficiency occurs in up to 90 per cent of pregnant populations.

This study shows that racial, social, and cultural habits counteract the benefits of sun exposure on vitamin D levels. Dr. Karras Spiros and colleagues at the Aristotle University of Thesaloniki, Greece, carried out a systematic review of vitamin D levels in 2,649 pregnant women and 1,802 newborn babies. They studied the effect of a number of different factors including, age, body mass index, race, socioeconomic status, skin types, period of gestation, sun exposure, calcium and vitamin D intake, smoking status, time of year of birth and pregnancy complications. They found that the best predictors of maternal vitamin D deficiency were dark skin, race, and dress habits.

“Pregnant women with vitamin D deficiencies may be at greater risk of various problems and complications, both for themselves and their babies,” Spiros said. “It’s imperative for pregnant women and the medical community at large to recognize the importance of vitamin D in overall health.” Ideally, the next stage of the research is to implement systematic screening for maternal hypovitaminosis and supplementation in a large-scale European project.

“We are excited about the potential of integrating testing and supplementation into medical practice, making it a standard of care across Europe,” Spiros said, whose goal is to keep future mothers healthy and give their babies the best start at life.

Keeping this in mind, it is important for pregnant women to consider taking a vitamin D supplement to maintain a healthy pregnancy. The typical prenatal vitamin has only 400 IU of vitamin D, and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends pregnant women take a supplement of at least 1000 IU.

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Sunshine alone will not provide enough vitamin D to pregnant women, even in hot and sunny Mediterranean climates, a study has found.

About the author:

Sydney Poulos | Digital Communications Specialist

Sydney is a digital communications specialist, living in Toronto. She enjoys sharing research-driven vitamin D and health content in a simple manner.

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