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Vitamin D Creates Lower Risk Pregnancies

I sing the praises of vitamin D. You know that. So here’s one more reason to love vitamin D: It can greatly reduce risks associated with pregnancy.

Babies born with sufficient vitamin D blood levels are less likely to be premature, suffer from respiratory problems, and be considered “small” for their dates, get colds, or experience eczema. Expectant mothers with sufficient vitamin D blood levels are 30% less likely to suffer from diabetes, high-blood pressure, and pre-eclampsia.

The sad part is that most expectant mothers (at least here in the U.S) don’t have sufficient levels of vitamin D.

In the recent studies that revealed all these benefits of vitamin D, a couple of things are noteworthy. First, expectant mothers took a daily supplement of 4,000 IU of vitamin D — ten times the RDA of 400IU! Sadly, many of us need this kind of supplementation to elevate our serum vitamin D levels to high enough values. The studies show that the ideal blood level of 25 hydroxy D is between 50 and 70 ng/ml.

The second thing of note is just how effective elevated Vitamin D levels are:

  • Risk of premature birth was reduced by half!
  • Women taking high doses of vitamin D had a 25 % reduction in infections, particularly respiratory infections such as colds and flu as well as fewer infections of the vagina and the gum.
  • Diabetes, high-blood pressure, and pre-eclampsia were reduced by 30% in women taking high doses of vitamin D.
  • Babies getting the highest doses of vitamin D had fewer colds, less eczema, and were less likely to be considered “small.”

And the third thing of note is how few women actually have sufficient levels of vitamin D. One study found that over 87 percent of all newborns and over 67 percent of all mothers had vitamin D levels lower than 20 ng/ml, which is a severe deficiency state. As a result, the researchers recommended that all mothers optimize their vitamin D levels during pregnancy, especially in the winter months, to safeguard their babies’ health.

Supplementing with vitamin D

The best whole food supplement for increasing vitamin D is, of course, fermented cod liver oil. Why fermented cod liver oil? Well, it really concentrates the vitamin D in the cod liver oil, particularly in proportion to the vitamin A. So you can get the same amount of vitamin D from just 1 ml of fermented cod liver oil as from 2 tablespoons of straight cod liver oil. This makes the fermented cod liver oil much more cost-effective. To find online sources of fermented cod liver oil, check out the listings on my resources page.

Of course, there are also other ways to up your vitamin D:

  • Drink only raw milk from grass-fed cows.
  • Eat healthy eggs from hens raised out on pasture.
  • Spend some quality time out in the sun, exposing as much of your skin as possible for at least 20 minutes per day if you’re fair and up to an hour a day if you’re very dark.

But most of us find that even doing all these things, we still lack sufficient vitamin D in the winter because of the limited and indirect sunshine. Plus we naturally spend a lot more time indoors when it’s cold out! So, why not give yourself a little present of fermented cod liver oil, just to be on the safe side? (I do!)

(photo by dawnzy58)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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22 Responses to Vitamin D Creates Lower Risk Pregnancies
  1. Katie
    December 31, 2009 | 1:03 pm

    [Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any cod liver oil company and have never purchased from either of these companies. I just like to see correct facts and really like to do math, ha ha.]

    “So you can get the same amount of vitamin D from just 1 ml of fermented cod liver oil as from 2 tablespoons of straight cod liver oil. This makes the fermented cod liver oil much more cost-effective.”

    This is not correct.

    The brand of fermented cod liver oil on your resources page is Green Pasture’s Blue Ice. The price for one bottle is $44
    That bottle contains 88500 IU of Vitamin D, which works out to $0.50 per 1000 IU of Vitamin D. The amount of Vitamin D in 1 ml of this brand is 375 IU.

    A reputable brand of non-fermented cod liver oil is Dr. Ron’s Old Fashioned Blue Ice, which sells for $25 per bottle.
    That bottle contains 67850 IU of Vitamin D, which works out to $0.37 per 1000 IU of Vitamin D. The amount of Vitamin D in 1 ml of this brand is 286 IU. The amount in 2 tablespoons of this brand would be 1430 IU.

    Both brands are significantly cheaper by the case, and Dr. Ron’s actually gives a better discount by the case (even accounting for shipping), so buying by the case would not change the outcome of cost-effectiveness.

    You are correct that the ratio of Vitamin D to Vitamin A is better in the Green Pasture fermented oil (1:5) than in the Dr. Ron’s non-fermented (1:10). However, I would like to see the other statement corrected. If you’re comparing to a crappy brand of cod liver oil with a token amount of Vitamin D, you’re correct, but there are many “WAPF-Approved” high-quality brands of non-fermented cod liver oil out there.

    • Katie
      December 31, 2009 | 1:07 pm

      Darn it, I did my own math wrong! Above, I calculated the amount of Vitamin D in 2 teaspoons of Dr. Ron’s, not 2 tablespoons. The amount of Vitamin D in 2 tablespoons of Dr. Ron’s non-fermented cod liver oil would be 4290 IU.

    • KristenM
      December 31, 2009 | 2:04 pm

      Hi Katie,

      Thanks for the comment. One thing to note: both the cod liver oils you mentioned are made by the same company. They’re both marketed as “Old-fashioned Blue Ice High-Vitamin Cod Liver Oil,” but one is the fermented line (Green Pasture’s) and another the high-vitamin line (Dr. Ron’s).

      The amount of vitamin D in 1 ml of the fermented cod liver oil is significantly more than 375 IU. It’s actually 600 IU. So, the amount of vitamin D in one $44 bottle is actually 142,200 IU. That lowers the cost per 1000IU to $.31, which makes it a better bang for your buck with regards to vitamin D. Plus, I usually buy my bottles from one of my sponsors whose list price for the fermented cod liver oil is only $41.

      I’m pulling my stats directly from the bottle in my refrigerator, and I confirmed them on Dr. Ron’s site at the listing for Green Pasture’s Fermented Blue Ice Cod Liver Oil.

      Also on Dr. Ron’s site, when highlighting the advantages of fermented cod liver oil, it says “Fermentation of the raw livers yields oil rich in enzymes and associated nutrients that make fermented foods uniquely strengthening. Many of these nutrients are unidentified as yet, but we do know that our fermented oil contains some ten times more quinones than the same oil unfermented. Quinones include vitamins K and E, Coenzyme Q10, and other important biological molecules. Each eight-ounce bottle of the liquid comes with a special cap and small syringe that allows exact dosage.”

      Also, the stats regarding needing 2 tablespoons of regular cod liver oil to get the same amount of vitamin D were regarding most brands of regular cod liver oil — not the high-vitamin cod liver oil available through Dr. Ron’s.

      Hope that helps clarify at least part of my statement!

      P.S. I edited this comment after you posted your comment below in order to more properly clarify that both Green Pasture’s and Dr. Ron’s are part of the Blue Ice brand of products.

  2. sputniksweethrt
    December 31, 2009 | 1:30 pm

    http://bit.ly/5CNY3z Vitamin D and lower risk pregnancies.

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  3. roadichose
    December 31, 2009 | 3:04 pm

    Want to know how to cut your risk of premature birth in half? Get more vitamin D. http://su.pr/1tAgED

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  4. Katie
    December 31, 2009 | 3:18 pm

    I’m in a huge hurry and don’t have time to address your whole comment.

    I did NOT do my fermented oil calculation based on Dr. Ron’s fermented oil. I did it on the brand you recommend on your resources page:
    http://www.building-health.com/blue-ice%C3%82%E2%84%A2-raw-fermented-cod-liver-oil-8-oz-liquid-p-61.html

    It looks like my HTML link didn’t work in my original comment. In my original comment, I tried to link it because that URL is so ugly. It seems that you aren’t mentioning the brand by name, so I’m trying not to either without getting everyone confused. But I assure you I did the calculations based on your sponsored brand, not Dr. Ron’s.

    The brand you link to on your resources page is $44 for the average consumer buying one bottle.
    Looking at the ‘raw’ flavor (the others don’t list the nutritional content), the page states that there are 118 2-milliliter servings in an 8 ounce bottle. They say each serving contains 750 IUs Vitamin D. 750*118 = 88,500 IUs Vitamin D in a $44 bottle. $44.00/88,500 = $0.000497/IU. That = $0.497 per 1000 IU Vitamin D.

    I stand by my $0.50 per 1000 IU Vitamin D for your brand.

    That’s fantastic if Dr. Ron’s is only 31 cents per 1000 IU!

    • KristenM
      December 31, 2009 | 7:12 pm

      Katie — That’s what I’m trying to tell you. They’re the same brand! (Blue Ice) Go check out the fermented cod liver oil on Dr. Ron’s site, and you’ll see. It’s also Green Pasture’s Blue Ice Fermented Liver Oil. The vitamin D info on the site you linked to must be a typo. It’s not what’s on the Green Pasture’s Blue Ice product label, nor is it what’s listed on the manufacturer’s site.

  5. tina
    December 31, 2009 | 4:58 pm

    I .50 cents for Green Pastures fermented cod liver and will continue to do so. I don’t care if I have to pay more.

    I mix GP CLO with raw cream.

  6. mail_quella
    January 1, 2010 | 12:44 am

    Vitamin D Creates Lower Risk Pregnancies | Food Renegade: I sing the praises of vitamin D. You know that. So he.. http://bit.ly/515Qbw

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  7. Ellen
    January 1, 2010 | 4:04 pm

    Wonderful photo!

    In order to even get pregnant, it sounds as if Vitamin D plays a huge role in fertility for women AND men, as well. Here’s one study that looked at men:
    http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/411319/2214888.
    .-= Ellen´s last blog post …Gadget Magic =-.

  8. Cara @ Health Home and Happiness
    January 3, 2010 | 10:42 am

    I learned that you can’t get all the vit D you need from sun during my 2nd pregnancy, and started supplementing with CLO then. My second baby was 6 days late, easy labor, 11 lbs. My first was 2 days early (unusual for a first), rough labor, 6.5 lbs. I took a probiotic with my second as well, and ate a lot better, but it’s interesting how it all adds up. We just got the fermented salty Green Pasture CLO and my kids (3 & 1) love it. I was surprised, I thought I’d have to hide it in stuff for them.
    .-= Cara @ Health Home and Happiness´s last blog post …What Do You Eat On GAPS? (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) =-.

    • KristenM
      January 4, 2010 | 2:01 pm

      Cara — Yeah, I’m thinking of upping my daily dose of FCLO now that I’m pregnant. It seems like when we’re pregnant, we need it even more. Add in the fact that it’s winter and I spend a lot of time inside and, well, I think I should be taking more.

  9. Sarah
    January 4, 2010 | 3:06 am

    Not sure if this was already mentioned – but a great resource on this is Dr. Michael Holick. You can find a video presentation of his research here: http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=15773

    It’s a long video, but well worth watching.

    • KristenM
      January 4, 2010 | 2:02 pm

      Sarah — Thanks for the link. I’ll have to check it out.

  10. Katie D.
    January 5, 2010 | 11:30 am

    Well, I started NT type eating last year February and started taking FCLO for Vit D. Nine months later, as I got almost perpetually ill, I went and got my level tested. It was a sad, sad 21 – even after daily teaspoon or tablespoon of Green Pastures CLO and no sunscreen all summer. I wonder if mixing with butter oil would have had a better effect. But I ate tons of Kerry Gold and Organic Valley butter, which everyone seems to say is good enough. Not for me. I am now on a Vit D supplement (derived from lanolin) and feel much better. Anyway, don’t assume your levels are okay just because you are eating well and taking CLO.

    • KristenM
      January 5, 2010 | 1:46 pm

      Katie D — That’s an excellent point! There are a lot of people who eat nutrient dense foods, but still suffer from nutrient deficiency. That’s possible mostly because of poor absorption of nutrients in the guts. It’s another reason to take excellent care of our guts — getting lots of probiotics, living & fermented foods, and possibly even following a stricter protocol like the GAPS diet in order to re-establish gut balance.

  11. Walter Jeffries
    January 8, 2010 | 6:17 pm

    Now we just need some sunlight…

  12. Anita
    September 18, 2010 | 11:09 am

    I, also, took fermented CLO and ate butter religiously every day….had my Vit. D level checked and it was at 21. I don’t wear sunscreen either. This was after pregnancy and nursing for 2 years. I’ve since been supplementing with Vit. D3 drops and have yet to get my levels tested. I also think it’s important to note that goat milk is lower in Vit. D and that this is a good medium to add the drops!

  13. Jett
    March 29, 2011 | 4:55 am

    lol wow cute baby picture :). Interesting post too and yeah the sun definitely gives a nice dose of Vitamin D. Also I think the best source of Vitamin D out there is the Marine Coral Calcium, I saw on tv and it looks promising or something. Apparantly on one site it’s said to have 204% (daily value) of Vitamin D (as Cholecalciferol). Also this one is off-topic but I saw this fruit or super-fruit I should say like more than a year ago or so called Camu Camu which is grown in the amazon rainforest in Peru not sure if you heard about this but yeah it has 30 times more Vitamin C than an orange and you know has other vitamins.. benefits.. to it too :). Anyway, anyway take care.

  14. Jett
    March 29, 2011 | 4:58 am

    Oops sry I made little ‘mistakes’ in my last comment, my bad. Anyway bye bye again.

  15. healthynwellness
    February 26, 2012 | 10:13 pm

    As a Certified Clinical Nutritionist, we knew about the link between Vitamin D and degenerative diseases 10 years ago. It’s great that most doctors are now testing for deficiency. Even if you get enough sun, however, you may not be able to process the Vitamin D to its active form. With bodies, it’s often not that simple.

  16. Carissa
    May 22, 2012 | 2:20 pm

    Even though I know taking a vitamin D supplement was better for more than just this, I was disappointed that I got pre-eclampsia anyway! Starting at the end of my first trimester, I took 5000 iu’s of vit D every day! BUT I didn’t get sick ALL WINTER LONG! And that was the first winter in my whole life I didn’t even get a cold. amazing. I wrote a paper on the flu shot and how vitamin D is 800% MORE effective than a flu shot – it proved true for me!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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