Vitamin D became a reoccurring talking point in COVID-19 immunology research when deficiency was linked with fatal outcomes by several international health systems.
Although experts are still unclear about the nutrient’s exact role in disease severity, the benefits of regular consumption have long since been established.
The latest addition was published in The Journal of Nutrition from an angle less common than we’re used to.
We know that vitamin D is important for the regulation of calcium and the development of bones, teeth, and muscles. And we know that the recommended daily value of vitamin D is around 600 international units (IU) for healthy adults.
According to the new data, vitamin D levels also influence cognitive performance. More discreetly, mothers who receive the recommended value of vitamin D during pregnancy increase their child’s chances of having a high IQ early in life.
“Vitamin D is critical to embryonic neuronal differentiation and other developmental processes that may affect future neurocognitive function. However, observational studies have found inconsistent associations between gestational vitamin D and neurocognitive outcomes,” the authors wrote in the new paper. “This study used data from the CANDLE (Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early Childhood) cohort. Between 2006 and 2011, CANDLE recruited 1503 women in their second trimester of healthy singleton pregnancies.”
The children of the participants involved in the CANDLE program were analyzed for several years.
After the authors controlled for all other relevant factors, they determined that higher vitamin D levels in pregnant women yielded higher IQ scores in children between the ages of 4 and 6 years old.
Unfortunately, most of the country fails to receive adequate levels of vitamin d. Most Americans average below 200 IU.
“It’s a common problem and can affect children’s development,” the authors continued. “Vitamin D deficiency can occur even if you eat a healthy diet. Sometimes it’s related to our lifestyles, skin pigmentation or other factors outside of our control.”
Forty-six percent of the study pool was deficient in vitamin D during their pregnancy in fact.
This deficiency is more prominent among African Americans, with 80% of black pregnant women failing to receive the recommended value.
“Vitamin D deficiency is quite prevalent,” Melissa Melough, who is the lead author of the study and research scientist in the Department of Child Health, Behavior, and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, explained in a media release. “Melanin pigment protects the skin against sun damage, but by blocking UV rays, melanin also reduces vitamin D production in the skin.
The good news is there is a relatively easy solution. It can be difficult to get adequate vitamin D through diet, and not everyone can make up for this gap through sun exposure, so a good solution is to take a supplement.”
Salmon, herring, sardines, cod liver oil, canned tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms, cow’s milk, and breakfast cereals are all healthy sources of vitamin D and they’re all relatively easy to implement daily.
“I hope our work brings greater awareness to this problem, shows the long-lasting implications of prenatal vitamin D for the child and their neurocognitive development, and highlights that there are certain groups providers should be paying closer attention to,” Melough concludes.
“Wide-spread testing of vitamin D levels is not generally recommended, but I think health care providers should be looking out for those who are at higher risk, including Black women.”