Prenatal vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk of eczema in newborns.
According to a recent study by doctors at the University of Southampton, using vitamin D supplements during pregnancy might significantly lower the likelihood that newborns up to a year old will develop atopic eczema.
The study, which was published in the British Journal of Dermatology, found that women who took 1000 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily from 14 weeks of pregnancy until delivery had a decreased chance of their babies developing atopic eczema in the first year. The impact was more noticeable in infants who subsequently consumed breastmilk for more than a month.
Chronic inflammatory atopic eczema can have a significant negative impact on patients, their families, and healthcare. There has been a worldwide increase in atopic eczema over the last several decades, with an estimated one in six children aged one to five suffering from it.
The University of Southampton Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre study is the first randomized, controlled trial to demonstrate evidence of a decreased risk of atopic eczema in infants of mothers who took vitamin D supplements during pregnancy. More than 700 pregnant women participated in the study; 352 took the supplements from 14 weeks until delivery, whereas 351 received a placebo.
The eczema research was part of the UK Maternal Vitamin D Osteoporosis Study (MAVIDOS) and was led by Professor Keith Godfrey, working with Dr. Sarah El-Heis, who was the first author of the paper.
Dr. El-Heis said: “Our aim was to see whether taking 1000IU of Vitamin D (cholecalciferol) as a supplement during pregnancy would decrease the risk of atopic eczema in babies. We also wanted to establish whether breastfeeding had any effect on this.
“Our results showed that babies of mothers who received supplements had a lower chance of having atopic eczema at 12 months, which supports recommendations for Vitamin D supplements to be routine during pregnancy.
“We found no effect at 24 and 48 months suggesting that other postnatal influences might become more important beyond infancy or that the babies themselves might also need to be supplemented during the postnatal period for a sustained effect.”
The MAVIDOS study also recently reported that taking the Vitamin D supplement during pregnancy also had lasting benefits for the child’s bone density at four years old.
Professor Godfrey commented: “We know that Vitamin D can affect the immune system and the proteins that make up our skin. We were interested to know if Vitamin D supplements taken by pregnant women would have an impact on their child’s risk of atopic eczema.
“Our findings showed a positive effect, which was more evident in infants that breastfed. This may reflect supplementation during pregnancy increasing the amount of Vitamin D in breast milk.”
Reference: “Maternal antenatal vitamin D supplementation and offspring risk of atopic eczema in the first 4 years of life: evidence from a randomized controlled trial” by Sarah El-Heis, Stefania D’Angelo, Elizabeth M. Curtis, Eugene Healy, Rebecca J. Moon, Sarah R. Crozier, Hazel Inskip, Cyrus Cooper, Nicholas C. Harvey, Keith M. Godfrey and the MAVIDOS Trial Group, 28 June 2022, British Journal of Dermatology.