The Importance of Vitamin D in Pregnancy and General Diet

The challenge

Interest is growing in the potential importance of vitamin D in many aspects of health. While the importance of vitamin D for healthy bones is clear, much less is understood about other effects it might have. We know that vitamin D deficiency is very common in Bradford; we also know that the sort of diabetes that develops in pregnancy (gestational diabetes) is very common. We set out to look at possible connections between these two things.

Our work so far

We studied a group of almost 1,500 BiB mothers who were pregnant in 2008-09; we measured levels of vitamin D and other related hormones in the blood samples women gave at the time of their 26 week glucose tolerance test. Our initial research has shown no association between low vitamin D levels in mothers and the development of gestational diabetes. This suggests that while vitamin D supplements may be important because of other benefits, they are unlikely to have any impact on the development of diabetes.

Future plans

We plan to look more broadly at possible associations of low vitamin D in mothers, and the health of mothers and babies around the time of birth. There is also potential to explore any associations between vitamin D, childhood infections and other aspects of growth and development in children.

Link to full research

You can read more on this research in the following paper:

  • Whitelaw, D. C., Scally, A. J., Tuffnell, D. J., Davies, T. J., Fraser, W. D., Bhopal, R. S., Wright, J., & Lawlor, D. A. (2014). Associations of circulating calcium and 25-hydroxyvitamin D with glucose metabolism in pregnancy: a cross-sectional study in European and South Asian women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 99(3), 938-946. here

Donald Whitelaw

Donald Whitelaw completed his MD thesis on ‘Aspects of insulin secretion and resistance in type 2 diabetes’ in 1998 and has been consultant in Diabetes & Endocrinology at Bradford Hospitals since 1999.

Since 2000 he has, with the support of the diabetes research team, contributed to over 30 commercial and academic research studies, and forged links with a wide range of clinical and academic collaborators.
He contributes to the research work emerging from the Born in Bradford project (for which he was awarded a research grant), and continues to develop research in his main areas of interest around diabetes in pregnancy, metabolism and cardiovascular risk.