Vitamin D for mothers and infants: who should be given the supplement?

Lucknow, India - Wed, 08/10/2016

In the last few years, the vitamin D status of breastfed infants has been widely discussed by the scientific community. This vitamin is usually found in low levels in these infants due to the changes in human habits and lifestyle (little outdoor activity, always wearing clothing and using sunscreen), as well as to the fact of dark-skinned people migrating to northern countries.

In this regard, a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition concludes that supplementing breastfeeding mothers with vitamin D3 monthly (3000 µg/month) provides the same benefit for the baby as supplementing the baby with the same vitamin daily (10 µg/day); and, in this way, there is a simultaneous benefit for the mother as well.

230 mother-newborn pairs were recruited for this double-blind and randomised study, which was performed in Lucknow, India. The participants were divided into three intervention groups:

  • Group A: mothers were given a monthly dose of cholecalciferol (3000 µg) for 9 months.
  • Group B: Infants were given a daily dose of the same vitamin (10 µg) for the same time.
  • Group C: double placebo, both mothers and infants.

Furthermore, all babies received 15 min. of sun exposure daily for the same 9 months.

The effect of vitamin D3 supplementation was analysed on related biochemical parameters, infectious processes and dentition of the infant.

At age 3.5 months, group C, where infants received sun exposure alone, was found to have lower levels of plasma 25-hydroxycholecalciferol. Alkaline phosphatase levels, which is an indicator of vitamin D deficiency, were reported to be superior in group C as well.  In addition, diarrhoeal episodes and respiratory infections were significantly more frequent in the same group during the 9 months of the study.

The researchers concluded that both monthly maternal and daily infant supplementation with this vitamin, along with sun exposure, result in better plasma levels in infants at 3.5 months than traditional sun exposure alone, and provide greater protection from elevated levels of alkaline phosphatase and from infectious processes.

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