Pregnant women 'ignoring vitamin D advice'

Sunlight on street Scots have low levels of vitamin D, due to a lack of sunshine

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Too many pregnant women in Scotland are not following advice to take vitamin D supplements, a study has said.

The University of Aberdeen report found insufficient vitamin D levels in women was a problem in the winter months, and even greater for those in poorer areas.

Researchers recommended that more should be done to improve the uptake.

The report said due to a lack of sunshine in Scotland, there was concern over the vitamin D status of the population in general.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women in the UK are currently advised to take daily supplements of vitamin D to protect against deficiency, but whether this advice has been successful or not has never previously been studied in Scotland.

The university's Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health suggested that promoting safe sun exposure and access to green areas during the summer months, including in the north of Scotland, would be a good strategy.

Double disadvantage

Vitamin D is incorporated in the body when skin is exposed to sunlight of a certain wavelength but in the UK, during winter months, UV-B radiation can be insufficient to properly support vitamin D synthesis in the body.

Start Quote

We suggest safe sun exposure and getting out into green spaces ”

End Quote Paul Haggarty University of Aberdeen

Study leader Professor Paul Haggarty said: "We need to do more to encourage women to take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy, particularly women from more deprived backgrounds.

"Realistically, however, if every woman in the study followed the advice perfectly about 8% would still be deficient in vitamin D.

"Those women most likely to benefit from supplements are also those least likely to follow advice on diet and supplements, due to circumstances related to deprivation."

He said: "They appear to be doubly disadvantaged in that they are also less likely to visit green spaces and may have limited opportunities to holiday in sunnier climates.

"We suggest that, in addition to guidance on supplement use, encouraging safe sun exposure and getting out into green spaces in summer may help to improve vitamin D status in pregnancy, even in the north of Scotland."

The research was carried out at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.

Out of 1,205 pregnant women the team found that 21% of mothers in Aberdeen reported taking any vitamin D supplements only 1% admitted taking the recommended amount.

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