Study finds extremely high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women in Northern India

Posted on: April 27, 2016   by  Amber Tovey

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When a woman is pregnant, eating a well-balanced diet, along with appropriate supplementation, is more important than ever. The pregnant mother is no longer only responsible for her own health, but now her lifestyle choices will also affect the health of her unborn child. Health care professionals advise women to avoid alcohol, smoking, caffeine, and to establish a well-balanced diet, exercise routine and supplementation regimen.

Unfortunately, many prenatal vitamins do not offer adequate vitamin D (400 or 600 IU), which puts pregnant women and their infants at risk for vitamin D deficiency. The consequences of vitamin D deficiency are detrimental, increasing the risk for both pregnancy complications and birth complications.

Despite the abundance of sun, research has found that India has a disproportionately high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency with an estimated 70% to 100% of the general population affected. Many Indian religious and cultural practices do not permit adequate sun exposure.

Due to the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among the general population in India and the potential health consequences of vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy, researchers decided to determine the prevalence and risk factors for vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women from Northern India. The researchers measured the vitamin D levels of 418 healthy pregnant women. Vitamin D deficiency was defined by levels less than 32 ng/ml. Women with past or current chronic medical diseases were excluded. Women who had history of using medications that interfere with calcium and vitamin D metabolism were also excluded.

Here is what the researchers found:

  • The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was 93.5% (391/418) among the pregnant women.
  • A total of 34.44% (144/418) of the pregnant women were found to be severely deficient (< 20 ng/ml).

The researchers discovered the following risk factors for vitamin D deficiency:

  • Decreased maternal and paternal education (p < 0.01).
  • Lower socioeconomic status (p < 0.01).
  • Approximately 25.6% of pregnant women who were recruited in November to February had less severe vitamin D deficiency compared to those recruited in other months (p < 0.01).

The researchers concluded,

“In the present study, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has been found to be 93.5 % (391/418) which is a matter of great concern.”

This study clearly shows the dire need of increased vitamin D awareness and knowledge. Most people can easily become vitamin D sufficient through inexpensive vitamin D supplementation, which according to research, may prevent various diseases and complications. However, as illustrated by this study, many people are unaware of the benefits associated with vitamin D supplementation.

The Vitamin D Council exists to address this issue. We hope that you, the readers, will also work towards resolving this public health problem by educating those around you on vitamin D. Together, we can make a difference.  We think the evidence shows that pregnant women should take between 4,000 and 6,000 IU/day depending on their 25 (OH)D level. And, if you know a pregnant woman, the nicest gift you could give her is one of our in-home vitamin D test kits.

Citation

Tovey, A. New research finds extremely high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women in Northern India. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, 2016.

Source

Sharma S. et al. Current Scenario of Vitamin D Status During Pregnancy in North Indian Population. The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of India, 2016.

6 Responses to Study finds extremely high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women in Northern India

  1. rcbaker200@comcast.net says

    Interesting that vitamin D council has not comment on the part of the article that says that 400 to 600 units of vitamin D is adequate for pregnant woman.. That low levels doesn’t result in an adequate level in any pregnant woman, and it barely raises a low level at all. Add a zero to the 400 or 600 and that’s most accurate of what is needed (with follow up levels, of course).
    Robert Baker MD

  2. Amber Tovey says

    Hi Dr. Baker,

    You make a great point. However, we only highlighted the study’s main findings that a high proportion (93.5%) of Northern Indian pregnant women were deficient in addition to the risk factors. Of course, we fully agree with your statement that 400 IU to 600 IU is not near sufficient for a woman to raise her vitamin D levels to a healthy range. This has been proven from various studies, including the study conducted by Dr. Bruce Hollis and Dr. Carole Wagner that found 4000 IU daily for about 5-6 months increased vitamin D levels to an average of only 27 ng/ml (whereas we recommend maintaining a range between 40-80 ng/ml).

    Cheers,

    Amber Tovey

  3. Rita Celone Umile says

    I think that physicians need to be educated in vitamin D….in nutrition…..in health and well-being, and that any change must come from them.

    I am very sad to say this but, unfortunately, I can say with 100% confidence that here in the United States we raise our children to revere the physician, and we train our physicians to think that they are omnipotent.

    In other words: “If my physician tells me so, then so it must be true.” And, especially our physicians believe this statement to be correct.

    I’ve amended my entire life just so I can perhaps approach the medical world on a more even keel–rather than just in the role of patient. But, I can tell you that yesterday I shared some wise health information regarding the key to my great gum health with my dentist, and guess what? I was called “crazy,” and told that I should know better, especially because I was working towards a nursing degree.

    Change must occur “doctor-to-doctor” if you expect public health changes.

  4. Amber Tovey says

    Hi Rita,

    I am so happy there are people like you in the world who are working to make a difference in others’ lives!

    Your experience with your dentist is truly disappointing. I am always encouraged by the medical professionals, including some physicians, who email us with questions regarding vitamin D or asking for resources to share with their patients. There are some who have picked up on the news about vitamin D and are making changes to their practice. Hopefully, one day this “some” becomes the majority.

    Cheers,

    Amber

  5. Anh Phan says

    I talk to everybody about vitamin D if I have a chance, I’m learning to practice public speaking skill to present vitamin D at party, or small group to the mass public, who don’t have time to read or to research about vitamin D. Many disease are the result of malnutrition, and vitamin D is one of important vitamin. I’m not a doctor, I just encourage people take responsible for their health and tell them visit vitaminDcouncils.org

    • Amber Tovey says

      Hi Anh,

      Please be sure to let us know if you need any resources/handouts for when you give these talks. We are so happy that you are taking action in your community; we would love to help in anyway possible! Just let us know.

      Best,

      Amber Tovey

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