UK tells pregnant women to boost vitamin D intake

January 08, 2008

The British government has told pregnant and breastfeeding women to increase their intake of vitamin D during the darker winter months to reduce the risk of seizures and the bone disease rickets in their children.

The Department of Health said doctors were reporting increasing numbers of cases of vitamin D deficiency in children. It said that children from Asian, Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern backgrounds could be at greater risk.

Dark skinned people do not absorb as much sunlight -- a 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 pediatrician 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." A lack of the vitamin can lead to rickets, a condition common at the start of the last century and thought to have been eradicated in the 1950s because of improved nutrition.
It can cause deformities in bones, poor teeth formation, stunted growth and general ill health.

Nutrition drink aids older hospitalized patients.

The health of elderly patients who were hospitalized improved, along with their physical and social functioning, when they were given nutritional supplements in addition to the normal hospital diet. Researchers of United Arab Emirates University in Al-Ain, and studied 225 hospitalized men and women, with an average age of 75. The patients, hospitalized for cardiovascular problems, lung disease, fractures, or infections, received a normal hospital diet plus either a placebo drink or a 995-calorie nutritional supplement twice daily for 6 weeks.
The nutritional supplement provided 100 percent of the Reference Nutrient Intakes for older adults for vitamins A, C, D, E, B1, B6, B12, folic acid, niacin, biotin, and pantothenic acid, as well as the minerals potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, iodine, copper, manganese, and selenium, the investigators report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Quality of life assessments after 6 weeks did not identify significant differences between the patients who received the supplements compared with those given the placebo.
However, after 6 months the patients given the nutritional supplement showed significantly better quality of life scores compared with patients who got the placebo. Measures of physical and social function were better, vitality was better, and mental health improved among the supplemented compared with non-supplemented patients.
This trial demonstrated that nutritional supplementation in hospitalized older people provides clinically important benefits, the investigators note.
Widespread use of nutritional supplements among older patients could have a substantial impact on the quality of life for older people the scientists conclude. The study is published in the December 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.