SEATTLE, Washington – A study from the Department of Child Health, Behavior, and Development (DCHBD) at Seattle Children’s Research Institute (SCRI), finds that a mother’s higher intake of Vitamin D during her pregnancy leads to a higher childhood IQ.
Researchers also found that black women are more prone to getting less Vitamin D and are more prone to its deficiency. Melissa Melough, the lead researcher of this study, notes that Vitamin D deficiency is generally common among pregnant women, with black women at higher risk.
Melough says that the study can help give attention to some discrepancies found in Vitamin D intake and other nutrients for pregnant women of different colours. Melanin protects the skin against sun damage by blocking harmful UV rays. However, this pigment can also decrease sun ray provision of Vitamin D. This puts black women at more risk for Vitamin D deficiency.
Prenatal vitamins are commonly taken to address vitamin deficiencies, but these supplements may not be able to correct an existing Vitamin D deficiency. Melough’s research could bring more awareness to this problem and show the long-lasting effects of prenatal Vitamin D for a child’s neurocognitive development.
It is not recommended to have wide-spread testing of Vitamin D levels for pregnant women. Still, this study can call health care professionals’ attention to look out for women who are at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
According to survey studies, 80% of black pregnant women have Vitamin D deficiency. Among all the pregnant women involved in the study sample, 46% of them are Vitamin D deficient, and black pregnant women generally have lower levels of Vitamin D relative to the other women who have lighter skin colours.
The researchers found that higher Vitamin D levels during pregnancy correlate to high IQ levels of their children from ages four to six years old. Although their results may not guarantee effective causation, their study will be helpful for further research.
Since Vitamin D deficiency is quite prevalent, especially for pregnant women, it is important to monitor your diet and sun exposure. However, as women may not be able to make up for their deficiency with diet and sun exposure, an alternative solution is taking in supplements.
The recommended Vitamin D intake for a day is 600 international units (IU). Americans generally take in 200 IU through their diet. So, if their sun exposure and supplement intake don’t make up for their lost Vitamin D, they probably would be deficient.
Fatty fish, eggs, and fortified foods such as cow’s milk or cereals contain significantly higher amounts of Vitamin D. It won’t be easy to get enough Vitamin D through these kinds of foods and expect a balanced diet throughout the day.
Additional research is needed to determine ideal levels of Vitamin D in pregnancy and possibly other sources of Vitamin D or methods to increase its intake to get the right amount for pregnant women’s needs. Extra nutritional supplementation and screening may also be given to black pregnant women who are more prone to being Vitamin D deficient.