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Many babies in northern-hemisphere countries are deficient in vitamin D, and are generally unable to get the right amounts of this important bone-strengthening vitamin from sunlight (and especially if you use sunscreen because that prevents vitamin D from being developed. So, supplements are important. And for more reasons than the bones alone, as a new study suggests. Apparently, newborns with low levels of vitamin D have an increased risk of getting a lung infection in the first year of life.

The infection in question is one caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This virus can cause lung inflammation (bronchiolitis) and also pneumonia. This bug is the most common culprit when it comes to infant lung infections, and those babies who had vitamin D deficiencies were at a six times increased risk of catching it according to the new study led by Dr Louis Bont of Wilhelmina Children's Hospital in Utrecht (Netherlands). The research team also said that the findings give more credibility to the theory that sufficient vitamin D levels during pregnancy could help protect infants from some of the RSV infections. The bug is extremely common and most kids get it at some point in the first two years of life. Symptoms are not usually noteworthy, but one or two in ten go on to develop bronchiolitis and some of those have to be hospitalized.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, involved measuring the vitamin D levels in the cord blood of 156 newborns in Holland where it is, as we all know, not particularly hot or sun-rich. As much as 27 percent of the babies had deficiencies, while an additional 27 percent had levels some medical professionals consider adequate while others consider them to be too low. Almost half, 46 percent, of the study subjects did have adequate vitamin D levels. Those who had the lowest vitamin D levels had a six times higher chance of getting an RSV infection before age one. The researchers did not yet want to conclude that this definitely means vitamin D prevents RSV infections, rather the findings could be explained by socio-economic and lifestyle factors too. More research will probably be carried out in the future. In the meantime, if you are pregnant, make sure your prenatal supplements contain vitamin D.

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