Preliminary results from a Vitamin D prenatal intervention being conducted in South Carolina reveal the average level for this vitamin in North American populations falls into the ‘severely deficient’ category.
The program, supported by nonprofit group Grassroots Health, aims at helping to prevent preterm births in the state. A report on the South Carolina’s preliminary results will be presented at a meeting called The Vitamin D Workshop to be held in Orlando, FL at the end of March.
Shockingly low levels
“We are testing a cohort of women in South Carolina right now,” Candace Leerheer, a spokesman for Grassroots Health told NutraIngredients-USA. “We are operating a prenatal program and we provide them with Vitamin D.”
Leerheer said evidence supports the notion that low vitamin D levels among expectant mothers is associated with a raft of problems for their offspring, including higher risk for rickets, allergies, autism and even cancer. Leerheer said low vitamin D levels have been shown to be predictive of a lower nutrient state overall.
“If your vitamin D is low, we’ve seen nutrient deficiencies across the board. With adequate vitamin D you increase your body’s ability to take up these other nutrients as well,”she said.
Leerheer said Grassroots Health advocates consumers shoot to achieve a 25-hydroxy Vitamin D level in the blood of 40 to 60. The South Carolina testing revealed something quite different, she said.
“Most people we’ve tested have come in at 10 to 20. That’s bordering on the ‘dangerously deficient’ range. They have children that are born with jaundice and other things that totally could have been prevented,” she said.
Vitamin D’s role in maintaining bone density, and in particular in preventing rickets, also could also figure in to social service referrals, she said.
“Some of these women who test highly deficient end up having their babies taken away,”she said. “The babies show up in emergency rooms with broken bones and that can be attributed to abuse. But it could be that these babies in fact have rickets and weak bones because of low vitamin D.”
Higher levels called for
The non-profit organization has conducted field test and interventions in other states as well. One ongoing program, that is being supported by in-kind product donations by NOW Foods, is being conducted in Montana, a state that ranked 29th in the nation in the prevalence of pre-term births. According to the March of Dimes, Montana’s current preterm birth rate is 9.3%, and those preterm births cost the state an additional $71 million annually in health care costs. However, research has suggested these costs could be halved and many preterm births prevented with proper prenatal education, vitamin D supplementation and screening.
Vitamin D research has proceeded apace even as new recommendations for daily intakes of the vitamin were put forward by health authorities. The new level set by the Institutes of Medicine is 600 IU for adults and 800 IU for people age 70 and older. A number of experts in the field have chimed in that this is still far too low to address chronic insufficiency of the vitamin that comes with modern life where people spend much of their time indoors or in vehicles and wear sunscreen when they are out of doors. Humans as a species evolved in a savannah setting and are adapted to walk long distances outdoors in high temperatures to find food. The way many people live today womenit’s almost as if the species evolved underground, leading to the modern scourge of Vitamin D deficiency.