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Study: Vitamin D could prevent RSV

By Nkoyo Iyamba  |  Posted May 10th, 2011 @ 5:28pm



RIVERTON — Pregnant women who take vitamin D can prevent a respiratory illness in newborns called RSV. That's the finding of a new study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics.

RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia and inflammation of the lower airways in infants in the U.S. -CDC

The study suggests that out of the 5 million RSV cases every year in the United States, a million fewer kids would get the respiratory virus if more pregnant moms took vitamin D supplements.

Mikensi Gilbert is six months pregnant and has been taking vitamin D supplements for this pregnancy. "It helps with fatigue. It helps with energy," she says.

Gilbert's first pregnancy was tough, so her mom, who reads a lot of medical studies, recommended she boost her vitamin D intake. "She knows that I had a difficult time with Jae with my pregnancy. I think she was just thinking of me," Gilbert said.

Gilbert had gestational diabetes, but this time she's expecting a smoother pregnancy. "I just had our ultrasound report read to me yesterday and everything's good. He's healthy. He's growing like he should," she said.

She hopes the vitamin D will also keep her baby from getting RSV once he's born.

"Vitamin D plays a large role in very many systems of the body," said Dr. Marcus Blackburn, a pediatrician at Intermountain Riverton Hospital.

Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is found in many dietary sources such as fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil. The sun also contributes significantly to the it's daily production. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones. It also provides protection from osteoporosis, rickets, osteomalacia, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer, and several autoimmune diseases.

As for how effective Vitamin D is in preventing RSV, Blackburn says it's hard to say. "RSV is very common," he said. "Most children are going to get it by the time they're 2. All kids have been exposed to it."

The symptoms mimic a cold, and Blackburn says taking vitamin D may just reduce the severity of RSV in infants. While the supplement is not the cure-all for respiratory and other health problems, doctors say it's still very important for overall health.

"Right now in this study they quote it as 400 international units — so the same as for a newborn child. Although, there have been studies that have shown up to 4,000 international units," Blackburn said.

"Vitamin D is something that you can have toxicity from," he continued, "so that's something that we're still working out."

Blackburn recommends all pregnant women check with their doctor on how much vitamin D to take along with other prenatal vitamins.


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