June 18, 2017
On Father’s Day, when you spend time thinking about all dad brings to the family, consider one more fact: paternal health is critical to having a healthy baby. As a society, we tend to see mom as the primary focus in the health of a developing fetus, especially when it comes to nutritional factors like vitamin D intake, but studies show that dad’s health plays a significant role, as well. Dad’s vitamin D status prior to conception may contribute to having a baby that develops into a strong and fit child.
Vitamin D, sometimes called the Sunshine Vitamin, comes from many sources including the sun. Yet statistics show that around 50 percent of the population globally is insufficient in vitamin D – that’s an estimated one billion people from countries around the world. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps that body maintain appropriate levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, which is critical to muscle functioning. It improves bone health, as well, and protects you against hypertension and certain cancers.
Vitamin D is found in foods like fish, for example, but dietary sources are rare. The sun is one of the best resources for this essential nutrient, hence the nickname Sunshine Vitamin. As little as 10 minutes of sunshine a day can prevent deficiency, but that comes with risks of its own.
For developing babies, dad’s level of vitamin D may directly affect the height and weight of the child after birth. There is some indication that a poor level of essential vitamin D in the father prior to conception may in some way relate to childhood obesity. The current theory is that the father’s health influences the quality and ability of the germ cells related to reproduction. Put simply, if dad doesn’t have the right level of vitamin D and other nutritional factors, it can have a long-term impact on his children.
The problem with vitamin D is access to it. Given the dangers of sun exposure, more people are wearing daily sunscreen, which limits the amount of vitamin D they get from the sun. A product with an SPF of 30 lowers vitamin D synthesis by 95 percent.
That leaves food as one of the most practical sources of this essential vitamin, but dietary absorption rates vary. How your body absorbs any vitamin regulates your intake and this is true with vitamin D derived from food or supplements, as well. There is clinical evidence to support the role gut microbiota plays in the absorption of vitamins for dietary sources.
The importance of gut health has become all too clear over the last few decades, in fact. A diverse gut microbiota is critical, in part, because the intestinal tract is home to a complex ecosystem that supports a wide range of bacterial species. The right mix will impact:
A disruption in this ecosystem may be responsible for everything from diabetes to obesity. One area that is clearly affected by the gut microbiota is vitamin absorption. Since dads, and everyone else for that matter, must look for more nutritional sources of vitamin D, then probiotics may help. Taking a Lactobacillus-based probiotic can increased vitamin D levels significantly, according to a 2016 report. Researchers estimate that taking a probiotic increases serum vitamin D levels by 14.9 nmol/L.
When planning for that next baby, it’s no longer enough to ensure mom is at her healthiest. It’s important to factor dad’s health at the same time, including his vitamin D status. Paternal health prior to conception may have an impact, especially when it comes to the babies’ height and weight as they grow.
Whether the dad in your life is considering another baby or just someone you want to keep healthy, then it’s time to start thinking about the little things like vitamin D intake. Along with improving digestion and overall health, the right probiotic will naturally increase vitamin B levels such as folate and B12, too.
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