(NaturalNews) A study just published in the Journal of Nutrition concludes that pregnant women with low levels of vitamin D are more apt to have an infection that can put the health and even the very life of their babies at risk -- bacterial vaginosis (BV). What's more, the University of Pittsburgh research could explain why African-American women, who frequently are found to be deficit in vitamin D, are three times more likely to develop BV than their white counterparts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), BV occurs when the healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted. Bacterial vaginosis is typically marked by a reduction in the number of hydrogen peroxide-producing lactobacilli found normally in the vagina. At the same time, there's an overgrowth of other kinds of bacteria, notably anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that proliferate in the absence of oxygen). Symptoms of BV may include discharge, odor, pain, itching, or burning.
Because of the potential impact of BV on babies, the CDC urges all pregnant women who have ever had a premature delivery or low birth weight baby to have a BV examination, whether they have any symptoms or not, and be treated with antibiotics if they have the infection. The CDC also recommends that all pregnant women who have any BV symptoms be checked and treated.
"Bacterial vaginosis affects nearly one in three reproductive-aged women, so there is great need to understand how it can be prevented," Lisa M. Bodnar, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., assistant professor of epidemiology, obstetrics and gynecology at University of Pittsburgh, explained in a statement to the media. "It is not only associated with a number of gynecologic conditions, but also may contribute to premature delivery -- the leading cause of neonatal mortality -- making it of particular concern to pregnant women."
The investigators studied 469 pregnant women to see if their vitamin D status could be the key to predisposing women, in particular black women, to BV. Dr. Bodnar and her colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh's Magee-Womens Research Institute found that 41 percent of the study participants had BV -- and an astounding 93 percent of the pregnant women with the infection were found to be deficit in vitamin D. The scientists also discovered that the prevalence of BV dropped when vitamin D levels rose.
So how could vitamin D have anything to do with a bacterial infection of the vagina? The answer could lie in the vitamin's ability to regulate the production and function of antimicrobial molecules, which may help the immune system prevent and control BV. Previous research has shown that only about one in four Americans gets enough vitamin D and a deficiency of the vitamin appears to be more common in African-Americans due to their dark pigmentation. Darker skin can limit the amount of vitamin D that can be made in the skin through everyday exposure to sunlight. In addition, according to the University of Pittsburgh media statement, African-American women also are less likely to meet dietary recommendations of vitamin D.
"Although this is a preliminary study, it points out an interesting connection between vitamin D and BV," Dr. Bodnar stated. "We don't recommend pregnant women take mega-doses of vitamin D based on these findings, but they should talk with their doctor if they have concerns about their vitamin D status. All women should be encouraged to eat a healthy diet and take a prenatal vitamin before they become pregnant or as soon as they find out they are pregnant."
The University of Pittsburgh research is one of the latest studies showing how important vitamin D appears to be for optimum health. As previously reported in Natural News (http://www.naturalnews.com/021892.html) scientists at Creighton University School of Medicine in Nebraska found that supplementation with vitamin D and calcium may be able to reduce the risk of cancer by an astonishing 77 percent.
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.