Overweight or obesity during pregnancy is linked to low vitamin D levels. This negatively affects the health of the expecting mother, and in the long run it increases the child's risk of weak bones, overweight, type-2 diabetes, and allergies.
A study published in PLoS ONE (Public Library of Science) links mothers having high BMI (Body Mass Index) with low vitamin D levels in their offspring. This discovery is rather disturbing, because it means that the baby gets a bad start to life with an increased risk of overweight and several chronic illnesses.
Jami Josefson, an endocrinologist at the Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago and professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine says that, according to the study, there is a relation between overweight and obesity in pregnant women and low vitamin D levels in both the mothers and their newborn babies. However, more research is needed before specific recommendations can be made about vitamin D supplements for overweight pregnant women.
BMI (Body Mass Index) and pregnancy
BMI is a mathematical formula that describes the relation between a person's height and weight. Although it is completely natural to gain weight during pregnancy, the weight increase should be within normal boundaries.
Overweight in pregnancy and lack of vitamin D - it is a vicious cycle
More and more people are overweight and obese, and this is a trend that seems to affect a large number of women before and during pregnancy. At the same time, vitamin D deficiencies are becoming increasingly common, mainly due to lack of exposure to the sun, which is the main source of vitamin D. Moreover, people who are overweight or have diabetes are more vulnerable, as their ability to utilize vitamin D is often impaired. Vitamin D deficiency is now being linked to the growing number of overweight children who, at the same time, have an increased risk of developing obesity, type-2 diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.
A matter of finding the cause and preventing the problem
Jami Josefson's research has revealed that extreme weight gain during the first trimester is a risk factor of an adverse pregnancy that includes giving birth to an overweight baby with too much body fat. It appears that Jami Josefson is particularly interested in studying the underlying cause of overweight and various diseases. If science is able to identify the most critical aspects in connection with pregnancy, it may be possible to intervene during pregnancy and lower the children's risk of overweight or other health problems later in life.
Maternal blood sugar levels also influence the fetus
Jami Josefson has currently launched a large follow-up study together with Wendy Brickman, who is also an endocrinologist at the Lurie Children's Hospital. In this study, the researchers want to take a closer look at the role of elevated blood sugar levels in overweight pregnant women, even in situations where they have not yet developed diabetes. This is because early stages of diabetes and elevated blood sugar in pregnancy are known to affect birthweight and fat mass in the neonates. The follow-up study is being conducted in nine other centers in different countries and aims at looking at how the participating mothers and their offspring manage 8-10 years later. Jami Josefson says that these studies will help researchers develop and test targeted interventions, which enables them to provide mothers and their children with the best conditions for good long-term health.
Lack of vitamin D - especially among overweight people
The summer sun is our primary source of vitamin D, which is synthesized from cholesterol in our skin. Many people become deficient during the winter period, however. Vitamin D deficiencies have become increasingly widespread during the past 15-20 years, mainly due to lack of sun exposure, the use of sun factor, fear of fat in the diet, and prolonged use of cholesterol-lowering medicine. In addition, dark-skinned and older people do not synthesize vitamin D as efficiently. Now, science has also demonstrated that the widespread problems with overweight and diabetes are linked to lack of vitamin D
Overweight people and diabetics need more vitamin D - this is why
Official recommendations for vitamin D intake are the same for adults, regardless of their weight. However, as all cells in the body need vitamin D, being overweight increases a person's need for the nutrient. Moreover, diabetics have difficulty with converting vitamin D into its active form (25-hydroxyvitamin D3), which is the form of vitamin D that is measured in the blood.
Vitamin D and supplements for pregnant women and infants
Supplements of vitamin D are routinely recommended to pregnant women and children aged 0-2 years. The question is if the recommended amounts are sufficient for pregnant women who are overweight or obese. Because vitamin D is a lipid-soluble vitamin it is utilized the best when taken in capsules where the vitamin D content is dissolved in some kind of oil
Upper safe limit for vitamin D intake (last updated in 2012)
Experts disagree on the actual need for vitamin D, which depends on BMI and many other factors. The EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has set the upper safe intake level for vitamin D at 100 micrograms/day for children older than 11 years and adults, including pregnant and lactating women.
Ann and Robert H Lurie Children´s Hospital. Vitamin D level, body fat in newborn linked to health status in pregnancy. ScienceDaily 2016
Iowa State University: New promise for diabetics with vitamin D-deficiency. ScienceDaily. 2016
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