Building strong bones before they’re born
Q: My wife and I just found out we’re going to be grandparents. Do you have any advice we can give our daughter?
Dr. Wright: Research has made it crystal clear that vitamin D (whose formation is started in our skins by sunshine) is much more important to health than anyone ever imagined. Studies indicate that this is doubly true for expectant mothers. Both mother and baby experience the benefits of vitamin D-benefits that the unborn child continues to experience for the rest of his life.
We’ve known of the connection between vitamin D and Type I (juvenile) diabetes for years. One study showed that children born to women who were given vitamin D throughout their pregnancy had significantly fewer cases of Type I diabetes over the next 18 years. In another study, children given 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily for five years starting at age one had 80 percent less incidence of Type I diabetes during that time.
Now we know of another reason to urge pregnant women to get more vitamin D: It helps lower the risk of osteoporosis in both the mother and the child. No kidding! A research study evaluated bone mass in 198 9-year-old children whose mothers had had their blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels checked during the last part of their pregnancies. The children of the women who had more sun exposure and who supplemented with vitamin D had a significantly higher bone mass.
(As a side note, calcium intake was found to be important to. A reduced concentration of calcium also predicted reduced childhood bone mass, although less strongly than vitamin D levels.)
The researchers concluded: “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.”
Tell your daughter about the importance of vitamin D and encourage her to get out in the sunshine (without using sunscreen), or at the very least to take fish oil supplements containing vitamin D every day before, during, and after pregnancy. Fish oil is also important because it contains major amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for adult brain cells and for preventing attention deficit disorder in little brains. Of course pregnant women should consult with their doctor before adding any supplement to their diets.