The January 2013 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reports the finding of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh of a relationship between reduced vitamin D levels in pregnant women and a higher risk of delivering a low birth weight infant. Babies who are born with a low birth weight have a greater chance of dying during their first month of life and experience more chronic diseases later, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Alison Gernand, PhD, MPH, RD of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health and colleagues measured 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels among 2,146 pregnant women who participated in the Collaborative Perinatal Project between 1959 to 1965. Women whose vitamin D levels were 37.5 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) or greater gave birth to infants whose birth weight averaged 46 grams higher than children born to mothers whose vitamin D levels were lower than 37.5 nmol/L. In addition, infants born to mothers with higher vitamin D levels had larger average head circumferences than those born to women with lower levels.

To learn more: Deficient maternal vitamin D associated with low infant birth weight.