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Vitamin D, are you and your baby getting enough?

Posted by on Feb 27, 2014

Vitamin D, are you and your baby getting enough?

vitamin d in African americans

A new study shows that supplementation with 4,000 IU of vitamin D in African American adults may be needed to meet even minimal recommended blood levels. [1]


This research is very relevant to pregnancy and breastfeeding since research is overwhelmingly showing that higher levels of vitamin D are indispensable to the health of the pregnant and lactating mother-baby.


So not just African-Americans, pregnant women are now encouraged to take 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily. [2] [3]


Deficiency during pregnancy is associated with five times higher risk of preeclampsia and four times higher risk of primary cesarean. [4][5][6]


If you’re breastfeeding, not having enough Vitamin D in your system can mean that your baby doesn’t receive enough. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a Vitamin D supplement for babies from early infancy. [7]


According to research published on PubMed, with limited sun exposure, an intake of 400 IU/day of vitamin D3 supplied only extremely limited amounts of vitamin D to the nursing infant via breast milk. A maternal intake of 6,400 IU/day vitamin D elevated circulating 25(OH)D in both mother and nursing infant eliminating the need for infant supplementation. [8] [9]


Back to the vitamin D supplementation in African Americans: The African American population is known to have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer than other American adults. It has been proposed that this may be due in part to lower circulating vitamin D levels in this population. [1]


In a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers sought to determine the dose-response relation between vitamin D supplementation and subsequent blood levels of vitamin D.


The study was conducted in Boston, MA and included 328 African American adults who were enrolled over three winters from 2007 to 2010. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four supplement groups taking either a placebo or 1,000 IU, 2000 IU, or 4000 IU of vitamin D daily. Diet history and socioeconomic information was collected from all subjects, and blood samples were collected at the beginning and again at 3 and 6 months.


At the beginning of the study, the average vitamin D level of each group was below the levels recommended by the Institute of Medicine (20ng/mL). After three months of supplementation the vitamin D level in the placebo group fell from 15.1ng/mL to 13.7 ng/mL, while the groups supplemented with 1,000 IU, 2,000 IU and 4,000 IU rose to 29.7 ng/mL, 34.8 ng/mL and 45.9 ng/mL respectively.


The dose required to increase blood vitamin D levels to 20ng/mL in more than 97.5% of the subjects was estimated to be 1,640 IU. Supplementation with 4,000 IU was needed to reach vitamin D levels of at least 33 ng/mL in more than 80% of the subjects.


In this study of African American adults, supplementation with 4,000 IU per day was needed to achieve vitamin D concentrations shown in observational studies to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. [1]


High risk populations living in Northern climates should be encouraged to discuss vitamin D supplementation with their health care professional.


Having a blood tests to measure the amount of vitamin D in your blood is the only way to know if you’re getting enough vitamin D or not. The blood test you need is called a 25(OH)D blood test. Click here to learn about the 25(OH)D test and how to get tested. 





[1] Kimmie Ng et al. Dose response to vitamin D supplementation in African Americans: results of a 4-arm, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr March 2014 vol. 99 no. 3 587-598

[2] Vitamin D Recommendations during Pregnancy, Lactation and Early Infancy

[3] High Dose Vitamin D (4000 IUs) Significantly Improved Health & Outcomes for Moms and Babies.

[4] Maternal vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of preeclampsia.

[5] Preeclampsia and Vitamin D

[6] Association between vitamin D deficiency and primary cesarean section.

[7] Podcast: Can you give your baby enough Vitamin D by increasing your own levels?

[8] High-dose vitamin D3 supplementation in a cohort of breastfeeding mothers and their infants: a 6-month follow-up pilot study.

[9] The breastfeeding mother: Breast milk as a biomarker?

[10] Vitamin D Requirements During Infancy: Reading Between the Lines – La Leche League


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