By John Salak –
No one can guarantee your unborn child will grow up to be decent, successful or even smart. Yet a new study by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute suggests that expectant mothers who have relatively high levels of Vitamin D during pregnancy may help boost higher childhood IQ scores in their offspring.
The research institute noted that Vitamin D deficiency is already common among the general population, including pregnant women. But its research found that black pregnant women had significantly lower levels of Vitamin D, placing them at a disproportionately greater risk than other groups.
The study lead author, research scientist Melissa Melough, noted that these findings should encourage health care providers to address the Vitamin D disparities among women of color.
“Melanin pigment protects the skin against sun damage, but by blocking UV rays, melanin also reduces vitamin D production in the skin. Because of this, we weren’t surprised to see high rates of vitamin D deficiency among Black pregnant women in our study. Even though many pregnant women take a prenatal vitamin, this may not correct an existing vitamin D deficiency,” Melough warned.
The Seattle-based research found that up to 80 percent of Black pregnant women in the U.S. may be deficient in vitamin D. Overall, 46 percent of all the mothers who participated in the study for Vitamin D deficient.
While Vitamin D deficiency is fairly widespread, the study underscored some good news. These deficiencies are relatively easy to reserve. “It can be difficult to get adequate vitamin D through diet, and not everyone can make up for this gap through sun exposure, so a good solution is to take a supplement,” Melough explained.
A breakdown of the numbers underscore this. The daily recommended intake of Vitamin D, for example, is 600 international units (IU). Unfortunately, Americans on average consume less than 200 IU from their diet, making it one of the most difficult nutrients to secure from diet alone. Certain foods that contain higher levels of Vitamin D such as fatty fish, eggs and fortified sources like cow’s milk and breakfast cereals, can help boost levels but they may still not get everyone to 600 IU.
Exposure to sun can also support Vitamin D levels, but Melough warns that this approach usually doesn’t close the gap entirely. The bottom line, especially for pregnant women, usually comes down to relying on daily Vitamin D supplements to make sure they are covered.
“I want people to know that it’s a common problem and can affect children’s development,” Melough said. “Vitamin D deficiency can occur even if you eat a healthy diet. Sometimes it’s related to our lifestyles, skin pigmentation or other factors outside of our control.”
Whatever the cause, the solution is easy and would have extended implications for mothers and their children.