Pregnant women told to boost vitamin D intake

London, Dec 28 | Updated: Dec 29 2007, 05:25am hrs
The government is advising pregnant and breastfeeding women to increase their intake of vitamin D during the darker winter months, to reduce the risk of seizures and rickets in their children.

The department of health said doctors were reporting an increasing number of cases of vitamin D deficiency in children. It said that children from Asian, Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern backgrounds could be at a greater risk.

Dark skinned people do not absorb as much sunlighta source of the vitamin through the skin, and may also cover up most exposed parts of their body for cultural reasons, it said. We are seeing significant numbers of children with vitamin D deficiency, said Colin Michie, a paediatrician at Ealing Hospital in London. If a pregnant or breastfeeding woman is lacking in vitamin D, the baby will also have low vitamin D and calcium levels which can lead babies to develop seizures in the first months of life.

In the summer, 15 minutes exposure to sunshine on the arms head and shoulders will create sufficient quantities of the vitamin in the body, the department of health said. But in winter when sunshine is limited, the vitamin must be obtained from food sources such as oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines, eggs, fortified cereals and bread. The health department said pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children under four could benefit from taking a daily 10 mg supplement of vitamin D during winter. It advised those who thought they might be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, to consult their family doctor.