Mothers who are pregnant in the summer have taller and stronger-boned babies because they benefit from sun’s vitamin-boosting rays, a new study has found.
Sun’s rays make summer babies taller and stronger, study claims.
Expectant mothers lucky enough to be blooming in the hot months should get enough sun to boost their vitamin D levels just by walking around outside or even sunbathing.
Those born in the late summer and early autumn are around half a centimetre taller and have wider bones than their peers born in winter and spring, an 18 year project found.
But winter parents should consider taking vitamin supplements, researchers at Bristol University recommended.
Anyone thinking of trying to short-cut the process by sitting on a sun bed for the final weeks of their pregnancy would be doing themselves no good. Sun beds emit mainly UVA light, whereas it is natural UVB rays from the sun that triggers Vitamin D production, study spokeswoman Sally Watson said. Sun beds users also face well-publicised risks.
Ms Watson said: “Perhaps people shouldn’t be quite so terrified of the sun. There’s been alot of panic about skin cancer, but people don’t need to panic about the odd few minutes of exposure. A little controlled English sun is better than none. Or go to the Bahamas!”
Researchers looked at the likely sun exposure of the mothers of 7,000 children in the last three months of pregnancy.
The youngsters were measured and given X-rays scans at age 10 to determine their bone density.
- Children born to mothers with the highest sun exposure were half a centimetre taller on average, and had 12.75cm2 extra bone area due to increases in bone width, compared with children born in the darkest months.
- Taller people tend to have wider bones, but these children had increased bone width “over and above” that accounted for by their extra height, the team discovered.
The researchers say the increase in bone mass can be put down to Vitamin D levels. Sunlight on the skin generates Vitamin D, which works together with calcium to build bones. For most people, sunlight is their main source of Vitamin D. The figures prove that Vitamin D is important for bone-building even in the womb.
Also measured were Vitamin D levels in the blood of 350 of the mothers in the 37th week of pregnancy, and the results closely mirrored levels of sun exposure.
Professor Jon Tobias, a researcher on the project, said: “Wider bones are thought to be stronger and less prone to breaking as a result of osteoporosis in later life, so anything that affects early bone development is significant.”
“Pregnant women might consider talking to their doctor about taking Vitamin D supplements, particularly if their babies are due between November and May, when sunlight levels are low.”
The results are just the latest finding to emerge from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) which enrolled 14,000 mothers at pregnancy between 1991 and 1992 and followed their offspring in “minute detail”.
Also known as Children of the ’90s, the ALSPAC study is funded by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the University of Bristol.