This is particularly important in view of the current trend to increase the prevalence and duration of exclusive breastfeeding, which does not provide babies with enough vitamin D. Sun exposure and vitamin d supplementation in relation to vitamin d status of breastfeeding mothers and infants in the global exploration of human milk study.
This means that many babies who are exclusively breastfed and also kept out of the sun— as recommended by health authorities—are lacking in vitamin D. Healthcare providers and caregivers need to pay close attention to this problem and promote vitamin D supplementation where necessary.
After analyzing the data, Dawodu and colleagues 2 found that vitamin D deficiency was common in breastfeeding mothers from Shanghai and Mexico City and less common in Cincinnati mothers—somewhat ironically, perhaps, considering the sunshine available at each latitude.
But in taking the first steps toward objectively mapping the prevalence and risk factors for vitamin D deficiency in different populations, it calls greater attention to what appears to be a significant global problem—especially for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and infants.
Vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers and infants is a global problem further compounded by the lack of a standardized way of analyzing and comparing data. The proportion of infants lacking in vitamin D was lowest in Shanghai—not Cincinnati, as it was for the mothers.
Calcium, in turn, enables cells to communicate with each other, helps muscles contract, and gives strength to bones. Lack of vitamin D is therefore detrimental to health, especially bone health. Severe cases can lead to rickets— a childhood disease in which bones soften and become prone to fractures and deformity—and this condition may represent the tip of the iceberg.
The very limited sun exposure of the latter was likely related to cultural practices in Shanghai and Mexico, where new mothers are restricted from outdoor activities while being cared for by family members. Vitamin D nutrition in pregnancy: Only a few foods—including fatty fish, fortified dairy products, and egg yolk—contain vitamin D.
As for the babies, the results were somewhat different. Nurses visited the families at set intervals between four and weeks after each birth, recording information about their vitamin D supplementation and sun exposure.
But even in many countries that have plenty of sunshine, there is growing concern that vitamin D deficiency is a common and likely underdiagnosed health problem. This probably contributed to their higher levels of vitamin D.
Comparing vitamin D levels in Cincinnati, Mexico City, and Shanghai While moderate to severe vitamin D deficiency appears common among sun-deprived and unsupplemented pregnant mothers and breastfed infants, an accurate depiction of the global prevalence is lacking because there is no standardized way to analyze and compare the data.
To get a clearer picture, researchers in North America, Latin America, and China recently joined forces to examine vitamin D in breastfeeding mothers and babies in these three parts of the world 2. Dawodu A, Akinbi H The study examined about pairs of mothers and babies at each location.
A unique aspect of their research was its use of a standardized study design across different international sites— in Cincinnati, Mexico City, and Shanghai. April Breast milk does not provide babies with enough vitamin D; instead, babies rely on transplacental transfer, skin synthesis, or supplementation of vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency—a significant, global problem The study had a number of limitations, including limited blood sampling and time points, lack of comparison across seasons, and no evaluation of the role of skin pigmentation. A new study compared the vitamin D status of breastfeeding mothers and infants in North America, Latin America, and China—highlighting large variations in the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency between those populations.
Another question that needs to be sorted out through future comprehensive clinical studies is what constitutes optimal vitamin D status and supplementation during pregnancy—a topic that remains controversial 1.
To tackle this global health problem, a new study 2 calls for greater attention to the vitamin D levels in pregnant mothers and newborns.
Blood samples from all the mothers and around a third of the babies were also collected at certain time points. Clearly, the last word is yet to be had on vitamin D.Freelance science writer. I've covered life sciences & tech for Smithsonian, PBS Nova Next, NatGeo News, The Scientist, Nature, PopSci, Backchannel & The Verge.
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