Recent findings from researchers at the University of Southampton suggest that children whose mothers are deficient in vitamin D during pregnancy may have lower than lower than normal bone mass, possibly putting them at risk for osteoporosis later in life.
Researchers tested vitamin D levels in nearly 600 women during the third trimester of pregnancy and assessed the level of calcium in blood drawn from their babies' umbilical cords at birth. Almost a decade later, the researchers performed bone density tests on almost 200 of the children who were nine years old at the time. Children whose mothers were low in vitamin D experienced lower bone mass than children whose mothers had sufficient vitamin D.
Further research is needed to see if the affected children can strengthen their bones by taking calcium and vitamin D, eating well-balanced meals and doing weight-bearing exercise as they grow up.
While present in some foods (oily fish, especially), one of the best ways of producing vitamin D is exposing the skin to the sun. But in some countries and seasons - such as Canada in winter - sunlight is often in short supply.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada recommends that moms-to-be ingest at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day along with 400 units of vitamin D, especially in the second half of pregnancy.
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