US Pharm. 2022;47(8):1.

Taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy could substantially reduce the chances of babies up to age 1 year suffering from atopic eczema, according to a new study by University of Southampton, United Kingdom, researchers.

The research, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, revealed that babies had a lower risk of developing atopic eczema in their first year if their mothers took 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day from when they were 14 weeks pregnant until they delivered. The effect was particularly seen in babies who were later breastfed for more than a month.

Atopic eczema is a chronic inflammatory condition that can have a large impact on sufferers, their families, and healthcare. It is estimated that one in six children aged 1 to 5 years has atopic eczema, and there has been a global rise over recent decades.

The study at the University of Southampton Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre is the first randomized, controlled trial to show reduced risk of atopic eczema in infants of mothers who took vitamin D supplements during pregnancy. More than 700 pregnant women took part in the research—with 352 taking the supplements from 14 weeks until they gave birth and 351 taking a placebo.

The eczema research was part of the UK Maternal Vitamin D Osteoporosis Study and was led by Professor Keith Godfrey, working with Sarah El-Heis, who was first author of the paper. Dr. El-Heis said, “Our aim was to see whether taking 1,000 IU 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.”

Dr. Godfrey added, “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.”

The study recently reported that taking the vitamin D supplement during pregnancy also had lasting benefits for the child’s bone density at age 4 years.

See this issue’s Special Dermatology Section, which begins on page 33, for articles about generalized rash, sunburn, and pruritus.

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