Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Children who are born in late summer or early autumn are often taller and stronger

Sun's rays make summer babies taller and stronger, study claims ...

Summer babies 'tall and strong'
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.

Children who are born in late summer or early autumn are frequently taller and stronger than peers born in spring and winter, a large study suggests.

The results from the Children of the 90s project - which involved 7,000 youngsters - says the reason may lie in their mothers' exposure to the sun.
The body makes Vitamin D, crucial for bone-building, from sunlight.
The Bristol University study suggests that this process may even occur in babies while still in the womb.
By the age of 10, those children born in the summer and autumn months were on average half a centimetre taller and had nearly 13 cm of extra bone area than those born in the winter months.

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," said Professor Jon Tobias, one of the researchers.
Mothers entering the late stages of pregnancy in the summer can attain the necessary vitamin D levels by walking around outside or even sunbathing, the researchers suggested.
People should not panic about skin cancer as a result of controlled exposure, as some sun was much better than none, they added.
And if there was not much sun to be seen, "women might consider talking to their doctor about taking Vitamin D supplements, particularly if their babies are due between November and May," said Professor Tobias.
In winter months at latitudes of 52 degrees north (above Birmingham), there is no ultraviolet light of the appropriate wavelength for the body to make vitamin D in the skin, research shows.
The Arthritis Research Campaign is currently running a trial to establish whether giving vitamin D to pregnant women increases the bone density of their babies at birth and in childhood and reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis in later life.
"Although most people in the UK can can get the essential nutrients they need from their diet, and don't need to take extra supplements, the exception is vitamin D," a spokeswoman for the charity said.
"Because of a lack of sunshine in the UK in winter many Brits are vitamin D deficient, with vitamin D deficiency extremely common in pregnant women, leading to their babies having weaker bones at birth."

A study last year also suggested that pregnant and nursing mothers take supplements to curtail an apparent resurgence of the bone disease rickets.

Ultraviolet rays make pregnant women have taller offspring with stronger bones

Women who are pregnant for the duration of the summer have taller, stronger-boned babies because they benefit from the sun's vitamin-boosting rays, a study suggested .

Children born in late summer or early autumn are about 5mm taller and have thicker bones than those born in winter or spring, an 18-year research project found.

Women lucky enough to be blooming in hotter months should get enough sun to boost their vitamin D levels just by walking around outside or even sunbathing. But those pregnant over winter should consider taking vitamin supplements, researchers at Bristol University recommended.

Anyone philosophy of trying to short-cut the process by sitting on a sunbed in the final weeks of pregnancy would do themselves no good. Sunbeds emit mainly UVA light, whereas natural UVB rays from the sun trigger vitamin D production. Sunbed users also face well-publicised risks. Sally Watson, a spokeswoman for the study, said: "Perhaps people should not be quite so terrified of the sun. There has been a lot of panic about skin cancer but people do not need to panic about the odd few minutes of exposure. A little controlled English sun is better than none."

The Bristol team assessed the mothers of 7,000 children and calculated their likely exposure to sunshine during the last three months of pregnancy. At the age of 10, their offspring were measured and given X-ray scans to resolve their bone density. Compared with the children born in winter months, those whose mothers had the highest sun experience were, on average, 5mm taller and had 12.75 sq cm more bone area because their bones were thicker.

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. This increase in bone mass could be attributed to higher vitamin D levels, proving that vitamin D is important for bone-building even in the womb, the researchers said.