Monday, 28 July 2014

Study finds that low vitamin D levels in pregnant women can affect their children's development

DEPM's Thach Tran and Prof Jane Fisher have co-authored a study which looks at the effects of vitamin D deficiency on women in rural Vietnam who are in the late stages of pregnancy and early stages of motherhood. The study is particularly focused on how the deficiency might affect the woman's baby in the first 6 months of its life.

According to the study, Vitamin D deficiency affects more than 1 billion people and is now recognised as a major public health problem. Important biological functions involving growth and developmental outcomes have been attributed to vitamin D, and deficiency during pregnancy may result in important health consequences for both mother and child. Maternal vitamin D readily crosses the placenta, and maternal levels strongly correlate with infant vitamin D concentration at birth. The major supply of vitamin D is through synthesis in the skin, following exposure to ultraviolet light, but dietary intake makes only a small contribution to vitamin D status.

The study found that, low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy are of concern in rural Vietnam, and are associated with impaired language development at 6 months of age. The results strengthen the evidence for giving vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and highlight the need for further research to explore the impact of supplementation on longer term child growth and developmental outcomes, particularly with regard to language.

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