By Robin McKie
According to a new study by researchers at the University of Bristol, children whose mothers receive more vitamin D during pregnancy are taller and have thicker bones than children whose mothers receive less.
"It is thought that the wider bones are stronger and less likely to rupture as a result of osteoporosis in later life, so anything that affects the early development of bones is significant," said lead researcher Jon Tobias.
Researchers compared children born in late summer or early fall with those born in late winter or early spring. According to the researchers, mothers of children born in the winter would have been exposed to less sunlight during pregnancy and, consequently, their babies would have had less vitamin D available during development.
Vitamin D, which is synthesized by the body when exposed to certain ultraviolet radiation frequencies of sunlight, plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of healthy bones. Deficiency can lead to bone deformities in children and fragile bones in adults.
The researchers discovered, as expected, that children born in late summer, after their mothers had been exposed to more sunlight, were on average 5 millimeters taller and had thicker bones than children born at the end of winter. .
Cambridge nutritionist Inez Schoenmakers noted that in Britain it was only possible to receive vitamin D from sunlight between April and October. This means that exposure to sunlight in the summer is particularly important.
"Between November and March, the sun is low on the horizon," said Schoenmakers. "Its light has to go through the atmosphere much more than in summer and it does not reach the ground.For half of the year we can not produce vitamin D from sunlight, so what we do in summer has to see us throughout the year ".
The study has reinforced calls for the British government to address the widespread problem of vitamin D deficiency.
"It's time for the UK government to encourage people to sunbathe safely to reduce their cancer risk," said Oliver Gillie of the Health Research Forum.
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