Due to a variety of individual factors, newborns can lack Vitamin D even when their mothers have followed official supplementation guidelines. Researchers from Beijing have now found that not only insufficient sun exposure during pregnancy but also maternal overweight and a disadvantaged health plan could contribute to neonatal Vitamin D deficiency.
By Chen Wang
By helping the body to absorb calcium, Vitamin D is crucial in the development of healthy bones and teeth – all the way from infancy to adulthood. The easiest and most natural way to produce the vitamin is to expose your skin to sunlight. Nevertheless, most pregnant women barely get enough Vitamin D to meet theirs and their baby’s demands, and many countries do not sell Vitamin D fortified food.
To prevent Vitamin D deficiency in newborns, supplementation during pregnancy is recommended in much of the world. However, opinions regarding the adequate dose vary and depend on a range of individual factors. To improve preventative measures, a group of pediatricians from Beijing, China have now investigated which maternal factors may lead to Vitamin D deficiency in newborns in the first place.
More than half of newborns were Vitamin D deficient
Although the Chinese national Vitamin D supplementation guideline recommends a dose of 600 IU (International Units) per day, the study of 126 newborns at a Beijing university hospital found 56% of the babies to have a Vitamin D deficiency. The researchers attributed this high prevalence to several factors concerning the mother, including a delivery in winter, insufficient sun exposure, overweight, insufficient intake of natural Vitamin D-rich food (e.g. eggs) and insufficient Vitamin D supplementation, as well as having disadvantaged health plans or being without health insurance at all.
The study, recently published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism, is in fact the first to report an association between health insurance and Vitamin D deficiency in newborns. As Vitamin D supplements are not covered by insurance in China, the researchers believe it is actually the lower socioeconomic status of these mothers, reflected by their health insurance status, which determines the Vitamin D deficiency in their newborns.
Taken all together, the study underlines the need for an individualized approach: “A Vitamin D supplementation of 600 IU per day” pediatrician Dr. Chen Wang concludes, “is not enough for every pregnant woman.”
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