Lack of vitamin D during pregnancy linked to language problems in baby

By Shayna Brouker • Published: May 29th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The “sunshine drug” is back in the news again. You may have heard that vitamin D is essential to building strong bones, helps prevent breast cancer and keeps depression at bay. Now, new research shows that vitamin D is linked with language, too.

A study of more than 700 pregnant women in Australia found that those with the lowest amounts of vitamin D in their blood during their second trimester had nearly a twofold increase in risk of having a child with language difficulties. The second trimester is primetime for development of parts of the brain associated with learning language, emotion and behavior.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, measured the blood levels of vitamin D in moms-to-be-during their 18th week of pregnancy. Parents evaluated their kids’ behavior at ages 2, 5, 8, 10, 14 and 17, and scientists tested their language skills at ages 5 and 10.

Moms with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood during pregnancy birthed babies with a nearly twofold increased risk of suffering language problems, compared with women who got enough of the vitamin.

Many moms-to-be don’t get necessary amounts of the nutrient, but they’re not the only ones. Between 40 and 75 percent of people are vitamin D-deficient, which can result in brittle bones and osteoporosis. We can get it from the sun, but unless you live south of the line stretching from Los Angeles to Columbia, South Carolina, you probably don’t get enough sunlight. And the darker your skin, the harder it is for your body to absorb sunlight. Food is a more reliable and skin-safe choice. It’s found naturally in salmon, eggs, cheese and mushrooms —but not much else. So it’s best to fill in the gap and add a daily vitamin D supplement to your arsenal. Bolster your bones and ensure your children get the gift of gab.