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So how powerful is vitamin D anyway? A new study shows that expectant mothers who soak in some sun will help their unborn babies grow stronger bones many years later.
Researchers from the UK investigated nearly 7,000 children who were 10 years old. Those who had stronger bones tended to have mothers who entered their last trimester during summer months. It
seems that the power of vitamin D travels through generations.
Vitamin D has become, in the past decade, one of the most talked-about vitamins. Scientists regard it as the one nutrient that offers the greatest treatment and prevention possibilities. All forms of cancer and osteoporosis top the long list of conditions falling under the vitamin's preventative powers.
That second item is the issue in the latest study, as strong bones throughout life will minimize the risk of osteoporosis and related bone fractures. The UK researchers say the link between a woman being in the third trimester and in the sun is in the vitamin D that comes down in the sun's rays. It is
synthesized in the skin and is a major player in healthy bones.
The suggestion is this: mothers who soak up more vitamin D late in their pregnancies (when the baby's bones are formed) directly affect the strength of their child's bones later on. This finding was recently published in the "Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism."
Pregnant women shouldn't rush out and lie for hours in the sun, though. There is a line between a healthy amount of sunlight and getting too much ultraviolet exposure, which puts you at greater risk of skin cancer. Getting 15 minutes of sunlight on the skin without sunscreen is the optimal
amount of daily sun exposure.
These days, you can find vitamin D in a slew of products in the grocery store. That tends to happen when nutrients and other substances get a lot of positive press. (See fiber, probiotics, calcium and folic acid for further proof.) Dairy products and breakfast cereals lead the way in stocking
supplemental vitamin D, which is hard to find naturally in any great quantities in food (though fish is not a bad source).
The long-term study included the bone scans of nearly 7,000 British children. Meteorological information was used to estimate how much sunlight their mothers got during the last trimester. Overall, more UV exposure meant children with larger bones. Having solid bone mass earlier
in life is an important factor in avoiding fractures later in life. It is very possible that a mother's vitamin D levels may affect her child's bone health when the he or she reaches old age.
If anything hints at the power of vitamin D, this is it.
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