Care for expecting mothers might be out of step with the woman’s health practices in daily life. Old appreciation for the healthy effects of the sun does not play an strong enough role in modern lives. Indoor living is safe, they think, and good for civil sensibility. Recently, health experts have come to realize that one of the unfortunate consequences is an increase in autism in infants.
Mothers Lose Sunlight During Pregnancy
Mothers missing on the first source of vitamin D can affect their child’s health. Without a neurosteroid that depends on vitamin D, called calcitriol, prenatal children do not regulate brain development well enough to fully develop. The neurosteroid also protects against viral infections during pregnancy that can contribute to poor development.
A lack of vitamin D is a risk factor for autism in infants, says the executive director of the Vitamin D Council, Dr. John Cannell. Unknown to their mothers, their bodies remain vulnerable until birth.
Americans and Europeans Turned Away From The Sun
Apparently, mothers in America and Europe have discontinued old practices of enjoying the outdoors and taking in the warmth and light of the sun. In the old days, ordinary people got 90 percent of their vitamin D from sunlight. But, in the 1990s, medical news of the risks of skin cancer from exposure to the ultraviolet rays scared our citizens indoors.
The American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs led off the anti-sun campaign in 1989 by warning to keep infants away from dangerous exposure. A decade later, in 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics encouraged constant protection for infants, including the right clothes and sunblock. Americans followed, without hesitating to consider what they would lose in their life. During this same time, Europeans moved toward a similar life without the sun.
Limited Vitamin D From Skin Exposure
Average national vitamin D, without considering the diet, has declined. One of the sun’s powers when shining upon the skin is to activate vitamin D production in the body. An ordinary fair skinned person can produce 20,000 units of vitamin D in 10 to 40 minutes bathing in the sunlight. That is enough for a day. A mother can not adjust her diet, or take enough of the vitamin, to compensate for losing thousands of units when they stay indoors.
The effects of low levels of sun exposure are not new to Americans. It has long been common knowledge that lower winter and spring exposures can leave a person feeling fairly weak, especially a person who lives at the 42d latitude or further north. And, in fact, researchers have found that autism rates at birth are higher in the two pale light months.
On the contrary, the phenomenon is a modern loss of awareness of the sun’s importance. The recent health scare might have been what put our civil citizens over the line of good health, motivating them to get rid of the precious minutes in a day spent outdoors that can keep them healthy. The idea of healthy skin, without a hint of a tan, made indoor living normal.
The lack of light absorption in typical lives greatened during the same last 20 years that autism in infants grew rapidly. Too much restraint in planning outdoor activities takes away some of a person’s good health. Perfectly pale skin comes at a cost.
The harmful effect makes extraordinary caution against the sun worth a second consideration. A moderate degree of skin color, as long as it is not the pink caused by overexposure, can be a sign of safe living and good health. Mothers might want to put a little sunlight back in their health care plan.
Vitamin D Council, The Role of Sunlight
William B. Grant, Ph.D., Epidemiologic Evidence For Supporting The Role of Maternal Vitamin D Deficiency As A Risk Factor For The Development of Infantile Autism, Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center (SUNARC) ( June, 2008)
Robin Marks, Sunlight and Health: Use of Sunscreens Does Not Risk Vitamin D Deficiency, British Medical Journal, 319: 1066 (October 1999)