Pregnant women with low levels of vitamin D in their second trimester may set their child up for language impairments, according to a new study in the online edition of Pediatrics.
Researchers found that women with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood when they were 18 weeks pregnant were almost twice as likely to have a child with language problems as women with the highest vitamin D levels.
The researchers looked at vitamin D levels in 743 pregnant women in Australia. After the women gave birth, researchers measured their child's behavior at ages 2, 5, 8, 10, 14 and 17, and their language development at ages 5 and 10.
The study found that vitamin D levels during pregnancy weren't linked to behavioral or emotional problems in the children. But researchers did find significant language difficulties among children whose mothers had low vitamin D.
The scientists say this doesn't prove that low levels of the vitamin caused the difficulties, but it points to a "plausible association" that needs further study, Reuters reports.
Lead researcher Andrew Whitehouse of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research at the University of Western Australia says that vitamin D levels in pregnant women have dropped over the last 20 years, probably because they spend less time in the sun, HealthDay News reports. The body makes vitamin D in the skin when it's exposed to sunlight.
The researchers say vitamin D supplements could help. Vitamin D is also found in foods such as milk, fish, and eggs.
Image: Pregnant belly via Shutterstock.