A graphic image that aims to illustrate the importance of vitamin D in pregnancy. The image shows a pregnant woman and a bottle of vitamin D.
As many as 25% of Americans are vitamin D deficient. Diet, the amount of fat we store in our bodies, sun exposure, skin pigmentation, and supplement usage all impact vitamin D levels in the blood.

Deficient in Vitamin D

April 04, 2023 Written by Amy Cherry | Illustration by Jeffrey C. Chase | Photo by Ashley Barnas

UD Professor Melissa Melough's research links greater gestational vitamin D in blood and reduced childhood behavioral issues

If you work indoors, live in the north, avoid the sun, are lactose intolerant, vegan, elderly or darker skinned, chances are you may be deficient in vitamin D. It’s a common problem affecting as many as 25% of Americans, according to a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition. Deficiency rates are even higher among Black Americans, reaching 60%. 

Vitamin D is listed as a nutrient of concern in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Low levels of this key nutrient during pregnancy could have negative child health outcomes, according to research by Melissa Melough, assistant professor of behavioral health and nutrition at the University of Delaware. 

In research published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Nutrition, Melough has discovered a link between gestational vitamin D and behavioral outcomes in children. Using data from the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) consortium, Melough examined nearly 3,200 mother and child pairs from across the country. As many as 50% of the mothers were found to be deficient in vitamin D, and deficiency was linked with long-term effects on their child’s social development.

Her research found that pregnant mothers who had lower levels of vitamin D in their blood gave birth to children with more behavioral issues. These problems included a variety of behaviors from extreme shyness, detachment, or depression to acting out, disrespecting authority, violating social norms, and even aggression and violence.


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