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Baylor College of Medicine News

Study shows low levels of vitamin D in breastfed Hispanic infants

In a study that measured vitamin D levels in the umbilical cord blood of Houston-area infants, Hispanic infants were found to have lower levels of vitamin D, according to researchers at the USDA Agriculture Research Service Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital. The report appears in the current issue of BMC Pediatrics.

"Although the vitamin D levels in Hispanic infants were low, the study did not show that the infants had any symptoms from these low levels, but the fact that the levels are low is still worrisome," said Dr. Steven Abrams, neonatologist and professor of pediatrics at BCM.

Vitamin D drops work

Researchers analyzed cord blood in 49 Houston-area infants who were breastfed. Half were Hispanic and the other half were non-Hispanic Caucasians. Researchers measured vitamin D and bone density levels at one week of age.

They advised mothers to give their breastfed infant vitamin D drops and then repeated the measurements after three months. The infants had improved vitamin D levels and normal bone density growth.

"This shows us that giving vitamin D drops is what works," said Abrams. "It emphasizes the importance of giving vitamin D to babies and indicates that mothers should also be taking vitamin D."

No signs of Vitamin D deficiency

Infants who are formula fed do not usually need vitamin D supplementation because the formula contains vitamin D. Physicians recommend vitamin D drops for all breastfed infants until they start drinking vitamin D-fortified milk or formula. Mothers usually get vitamin D through prenatal vitamins, but they can discuss with their physician whether they should take an additional vitamin D supplements during pregnancy.

Although none of the infants involved in the study showed any symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, it has been shown in other studies to be associated with low levels of calcium, which can lead to significant health problems related to the heart and brain.

"If a baby went without vitamin D for a long period of time, then that would be a problem," said Abrams.

Others who took part in the study include Keli Hawthorne, Stefanie Rogers and Penni Hicks from BCM and Thomas Carpenter from Yale University School of Medicine.

Funding for this study came from the USDA Agriculture Research Service and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The full report can be found at Biomed Central.