Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Vitamin D Deficiency Impedes Child Speech

By Stephen Luntz

Further evidence has emerged of the importance of healthy maternal vitamin D levels during pregnancy, with children whose mothers had low concentrations of vitamin D in their blood during their second and third trimester more likely to struggle with speech.

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“The developing baby is completely reliant on the mother for its vitamin D levels, and what we have shown is that this might have an impact on the child’s brain development,” says A/Prof Andrew Whitehouse of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.

Blood samples were taken from 740 pregnant women almost 20 years ago and tested for vitamin D levels. The Telethon Institute has since tracked the children, looking for signs of lasting effects.

Pediatrics has published Whitehouse’s results, including the finding that children whose mothers were vitamin D-deficient are twice as likely to experience language difficulties. This is particularly concerning because vitamin D levels have dropped substantially among Australian women over the past 20 years, partially as a result of anti-skin cancer campaigns.

“The latest advice from the Cancer Council is that, while people shouldn’t go out in the summer sun unprotected, they should get half an hour a day of sunlight in winter,” Whitehouse says. However, he does not know if this message is getting through. At the time of the study the low vitamin D levels were overwhelmingly in winter.

The study also looked for evidence of behavioural or emotional problems resulting from vitamin D deficiency in utero. No correlation was found despite other evidence indicating a substantially increased risk of...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.