No-sunshine lifestyles are putting an increasing number of Indian infants at the risk of bone deformities, seizures and poor growth, a significant new study of Vitamin-D prevalence among newborns and their mothers has shown.
Conducted by paediatricians from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the research, for the first time, provides evidence to the government on the urgency of Vitamin-D supplements for pregnant women being covered under the national health programmes across the country. The study reveals acute Vitamin D deficiencies in exclusively breastfed babies and even greater shortages of the vitamin in their mothers.
Of the 98 healthy infants (aged 2.5 to 3.5 months) and their mothers studied for the purpose (47 enrolled in winter and 51 in summer to determine seasonal variations in Vitamin D prevalence, if any), the researchers found shockingly high combined prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in 86.5 per cent infants and 92.6 per cent mothers. Among those with severely deficient levels, the paediatricians found hyperparathyroidism (a condition wherein the thyroid glands secrete large quantities of parathormone to maintain low calcium levels in the body) in 90.3 per cent infants and 73.1 per cent mothers. They further found evidence of radiological rickets (babies wrists were X-rayed to find if they had rickets due to low Vitamin D and calcium levels) in 30.3 per cent infants.
“The presence of hyperparathyroidism among infants and mothers with low Vitamin D levels proves low calcium levels in their bodies and is clear evidence of Vitamin D shortage. It is to make up for calcium loss that thyroid glands secrete parathormone in greater quantities resulting in a condition called hyperparathyroidism. The parathormone maintains calcium levels in the body by mobilising calcium from bones to the blood. Long-term effects of such a mobilisation include bowing of legs among children, seizures marked by cramps of hands and feet and their abnormal posturing, or even abnormally square-shaped heads,” Dr Vandana Jain, assistant professor, paediatrics, AIIMS and lead author of the study told The Tribune. She said the newly found high prevalence of Vitamin D among Indian infants and their mothers was higher than that in the US but consistent with that in Greece, the UAE and Pakistan. The deficiency of Vitamin D in India is even lower for girls, starting from adolescence, with a recent study finding 90.3 per cent schoolgirls reporting such deficiency.
“Vitamin D deficiency among infants and mothers in both summers and winters can be attributed to decreased cutaneous synthesis of Vitamin D due to higher skin pigmentation in India. But the primary reason appears to be less exposure to the sun, lack of participation in outdoor activities and excessive use of sunscreens by women, who block UV rays essential for the skin to synthesise Vitamin D,” Jain added, recommending 15 minute exposure of arms and legs to the sun from 10 am to 3 pm daily.
The most important takeaway from the report is Vitamin D supplement for pregnant and lactating women in India, as is recommended by the American and European Academies of Paediatrics. The AIIMS study argues for the Indian Association of Paediatrics to make a similar recommendation to the government, which could consider providing supplements in the national programme.
Read the article here: http://bit.ly/gGTXC6