Insufficient levels of Vitamin D during pregnancy can be detrimental to child development*
Aside from all other already established general health benefits, Vitamin D deficiency in expectant mothers during pregnancy may also have a negative effect on the social development as well as on the motor skills of pre-school age children, a new study in the British Journal of Nutrition reveals.
*University of Surrey, July 2017
Examining data from over 7,000 mother-child pairs the researchers discovered that pregnant women who were deficient in vitamin D (less than 50 nmol per litre in blood) were more likely to have children with low scores (bottom 25 percent) in pre-school development tests for gross and fine motor development at age 2½ years than children of vitamin D sufficient mothers. Tests included assessments of the children´s coordination, including kicking a ball, balancing and jumping as well as the usage of fine muscles, such as holding a pencil or building a tower with bricks.
Vitamin D insufficiency in pregnancy was also found to affect a child’s social development at age 3½ years. No associations were found between maternal vitamin D status and other outcomes at older ages (such as IQ and reading ability at 7 to 9 years old).
Previous evidence from animal studies has shown that the neurocognitive development of foetuses is detrimentally affected when levels of vitamin D in the mothers are low. Researchers believe that interactions between vitamin D and dopamine in the brain of the foetus may play a crucial role in the neurological development of brain areas controlling motor and social development.
Lead researcher, Dr Andrea Darling from the University of Surrey, said: “The importance of vitamin D sufficiency should not be underestimated. It is well-known to be good for our musculoskeletal systems, but our research shows that if levels are low in expectant mothers, it can affect the development of their children in their early years of life.
In addition to the ground-breaking findings in this study, vitamin D, which is mostly derived from sunlight and to a lesser extend from diet, is also proven to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which is vital in reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Sufficient vitamin D may also be associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, infectious and autoimmune disease and diabetes. (see our box on health benefits below)
Established health benefits from Vitamin D:
- contributes to normal absorption/utilisation of calcium and phosphorus
- contributes to normal blood calcium levels
- contributes to the maintenance of normal bones and teeth
- contributes to the maintenance of normal muscle function
- contributes to the normal function of the immune system
- has a role in the process of cell division