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Pregnant? Vitamin D Aids Baby's Bones

Study: Difference Noted in Kids' Bones if Mom Got Extra Vitamin D While Pregnant
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 6, 2006 -- By getting enough vitamin D while pregnant, women may strengthen their children's bones.

Scientists in the U.K. found that 9-year-old kids had higher bone mineral content, as reflected by bone mineral density (BMD) testing, if their mothers had gotten vitamin D supplements while pregnant.

Those kids may grow up with less risk of bone fractures from osteoporosis (thinning bones), note the researchers, who included Cyrus Cooper, FMedSci.

Osteoporosis can usually be diagnosed by measuring bone mineral density, which reflects the bone calcium content, a marker of bone mass or content.

Cooper is a professor at the MRC Epidemiology Resource Center at England's University of Southampton.

The study appears in The Lancet.

Vitamin D's Role

Calcium often gets the spotlight for its role in bone health. But vitamin D and other nutrients are also important.

Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium. It's found in foods including egg yolks, liver, saltwater fish, and vitamin-D fortified products (such as milk and some breakfast cereals).

The researchers note that vitamin D deficiency can be commonly seen in healthy pregnant women and the elderly.

Supplements and sunshine are two more sources. Sunlight helps the body make vitamin D. Supplements containing vitamin D may also include other nutrients, such as calcium.

About 10-15 minutes of sunshine twice weekly -- without sunscreen -- is usually enough for the body to make vitamin D, according to the NIH's Office of Dietary Supplements.

Falling Short on Vitamin D

Many people don't get enough vitamin D. Diet and sun exposure are part of the issue, along with age and skin color.

Making vitamin D is harder for people older than 50 and those without light-colored skin. Melanin in darker skin makes it more difficult to make vitamin D from sunlight.

Seasons and geography also matter. Short winter days mean less opportunity to make vitamin D, especially in northern areas.

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