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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Literatus: The ‘sunshine vitamin’ and pregnancy complications

IT is, however, beyond magic to take care of the growing life in the baby during her dependent years.

It was only lately, that is in 2007, that research established the role of vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy complications, such as impaired glucose tolerance, pregnancy-associated diabetes mellitus, and preeclampsia, all of which are capable of impairing the health of the mother and the long-term health of the born child.

Vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D and also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” supports the maintenance of normal calcium levels in the body (calcium homeostasis). As early as the turn of the 21st century, scientists noticed that it also functions like the so-called “beta cells” of the pancreas, particularly in maintaining the normal level of insulin in blood and promoting the body’s ability to metabolize glucose (glucose tolerance).

Thus, today, three vitamin D3 functions are well-established.

First, it regulates calcium homeostasis so that vitamin D3 deficiency results to calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia).

Second, it indirectly produces insulin through its regulatory effect on normal calcium levels. It is calcium, however, which directly acts in increasing the secretion of insulin. Even in the absence of insulin, calcium can perform that function.

Third, it impacts glucose tolerance indirectly as well through its direct effect at maintaining normal calcium levels and indirect effect at normalizing insulin levels.

In effect, vitamin D3 deficiency can result in glucose intolerance (inability to metabolize glucose), much like diabetes mellitus. When this diabetes-like condition occurs during pregnancy it is called “gestational diabetes.” It is considered temporary during pregnancy as it is triggered by inadequate dietary intake of calcium (and dietary vitamin D) and inadequate exposure to the sunlight. Once the mother’s diet and physical demand for vitamin D normalizes after delivery, the deficiency tends to be corrected.

Pregnant women therefore are highly recommended to spend some time, at least 30 minutes daily, under the morning sun, preferably.

Jodi Picoult (Vanishing Acts, 2005) observed: “That’s the strange thing about being a mother: until you have a baby, you don’t even realize how much you were missing one.”

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