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Babies born in summer are on average half a centimetre taller than those born in winter.
A major study has shown that babies born after their pregnant mothers have enjoyed the summer sun are taller and stronger-boned than those born in winter and spring.
Researchers believe it is because some sunshine boosts levels of vitamin D, which works with calcium to build bones. The body makes most vitamin D from sunlight, rather than diet, but sun exposure is controversial because it can trigger skin cancer.
It appears too that late summer and early autumn babies also have wider, denser bones setting them up for a healthier adulthood.
However the 18-year study from Bristol University provides evidence that the sunshine vitamin is important for bone-building in youngsters even while in the womb. The researchers recommend that women pregnant in the summer get plenty of sun by walking around outside or even sunbathing. And they say that those expecting between November and May - when sunlight levels are low - should consider vitamin supplements. The Food Standards Agency advises ten micrograms a day of vitamin D in pregnancy.
Researchers looked at the likely sun exposure of the mothers of 7,000 children in the last three months of pregnancy. At the age of ten the youngsters were measured and given x-rays scans to determine bone density. Children born to mothers with the highest sun exposure were on average half a centimetre taller - a fifth of an inch - than those born in the darkest months.
The results are the latest from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children which enrolled 14,000 mothers at pregnancy in 1991 and 1992 and has followed most of the children and parents since. A study spokesman said: 'Perhaps people shouldn't be quite so terrified of the sun.'