Vitamin D deficiency is thought to be common among pregnant women in some populations, and has been found to be associated with an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus, preterm birth, and other tissue-specific conditions so obviously they need a vitamin d pregnancy. In the nature versus nurture debate, scientists often talk about genetics versus environmental factors in health. One environmental factor that has been getting a lot of attention lately is Vitamin D- and with good reason. Vitamin D is turning out to be a major influence in heart disease, cancer, diabetes and many other health problems. But Vitamin D is even MORE vital than was previously thought. New research is showing that even our Pre-Birth vitamin d levels are an important determinant of our future health.
When we speak of disease and health, we often think that people who are healthy are ‘lucky’ and people who are unhealthy as ‘unlucky’. But the debate is beginning to tip towards the fact that environmental factors influence genetics more than we can ever imagine, and luck of the genes has less to do with health than environmental factors. Vitamin D as an environmental factor in our health is not debated, only HOW MUCH of a factor in our health is what is debated.
“Careful attention to maternal vitamin D status could translate into diverse improvements in health outcomes for the following generation”
Professor John McGrath
Queensland Centre for Schizophrenia Research,
Wolston Park Hospital, Wacol, Queensland, Australia
Vitamin D deficiency has long been associated with osteoporosis, but most of us think of osteoporosis as starting in older age. Since women are particularly affected, it’s often that vitamin d and calcium supplementation is begun after menopause to help prevent the associated fractures of osteoporosis. But women in their pre reproductive and reproductive years need to be supplemented too, less for themselves, but more for the health of their offspring. Several studies have shown that pre birth vitamin d levels can determine bone mass and risk of fracture as an adult! Disturbingly, vitamin d deficiency is rampant among pregnant women and it could be having devastating consequences on the youngest generations.
“Vitamin D supplementation of pregnant women, especially during winter months, could lead to long lasting reductions in the risk of osteoporotic fracture in their offspring.”
‘Maternal vitamin D status during pregnancy and childhood bone mass at age 9 years: a longitudinal study’
Bone strength isn’t the only health issue that seems to be already determined by a mother’s intake of vitamin D, our mental health is also affected. Schizophrenia has long been associated with vitamin d levels due to its odd characteristic of occurring more frequently in those born in winter or early spring. This association is not just coincidental; vitamin D levels in the womb affect the health of the baby, even much later in life. Even a child’s lungs are affected by a mother’s vitamin D levels. Asthma, a common childhood problem, has been linked to vitamin D deficiency in mothers. The Journal ‘Clinical and Experimental Allergy’ published an article entitled, ‘Childhood asthma is a fat-soluble vitamin deficiency disease.’ which outlines this strong link between vitamin D and childhood asthma.
An even larger health problem in the younger generations could also be the result of maternal vitamin D deficiency. ‘Syndrome X’ is a collection of signs that include:
* Increased insulin resistance
* High cholesterol
* High blood pressure
* Central obesity
Together, these problems give sufferers an increased risk of acquiring diabetes and heart attacks later in life. Children are acquiring Syndrome X at such an alarming rate and at younger and younger ages, that public health policies and awareness campaigns are being put into place in many areas to deal with this dangerous problem. None of these, however, mention vitamin D supplementation as a possible solution to this growing problem.
These diseases are only the beginning of the conditions that researchers have put forward as problems of maternal vitamin D deficiency. Multiple sclerosis, diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, autism and autoimmune disorders have all been associated with low vitamin D levels and are candidates for future long term studies of how maternal vitamin D levels would affect their incidences in later life.
Unfortunately, these long term studies, even if started immediately, wouldn’t yield conclusive results for decades. In the meantime, women are simply not getting enough vitamin D during pregnancy. With current recommendations in the US for pregnant women at only 800 IU’s per day, this is in stark contrast to many studies that urgently recommend dosages of between 4000 IU’s to 6500 IU’s a day for pregnant and lactating women. This suggests that a woman needs an amount almost eight times higher than she is getting in order to supply herself and her growing baby with enough vitamin D to prevent many of these chronic illnesses that plague so many of us, and that are growing by leaps and bounds in ever younger and younger children.
“Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy not only is linked to maternal skeletal preservation and fetal skeletal formation but also is vital to the fetal “imprinting” that may affect chronic disease susceptibility later in life as well as soon after birth”
Bruce W Hollis, PhD
Professor of Pediatrics, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Director, Pediatric Nutritional Sciences
Medical University of South Carolina
With all of the research that is coming out about vitamin D and so many other diseases, it’s likely that the link between maternal vitamin D levels and diseases such as diabetes and cancer later in life is much stronger than we know. But without swift policy changes by medical associations and governments the spread of these vitamin D related diseases will continue to rise, even as the incredibly inexpensive solution is as close as your grocery store shelf.
Kerri Knox, RN is a Registered Nurse and Functional Medicine Practitioner. With over 14 years of experience in health care, she has the unique perspective of being solidly grounded in Conventional Medicine and being well versed in Alternative Medicine.
She can be reached through her website at
“Stop managing your illness and start getting well.”
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