New research shows that a mother’s low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy are associated with reduced size at birth and a gain in body fat later on during childhood.
According to new research conducted by scientists at the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton in the UK, children are more likely to have greater amounts of body fat during childhood if their mother had low levels of Vitamin D during pregnancy. Although low vitamin D levels have been linked to obesity in adults and children in the past, very little is actually known about how a mother’s vitamin D levels affects the body composition of her child.
Low vitamin D levels are common for young women in the UK and North America, and as a result most clinicians recommended taking additional vitamin D during pregnancy. To gain a better understanding of the vitamin’s effects, scientists at the University of Southampton compared the vitamin D levels of nearly 1,000 pregnant women with the body composition of their children. The researchers found that children who were born to mothers who had low vitamin D levels during pregnancy had more body fat when they were six years old than kids whose mothers had normal vitamin D levels. Other factors like a mother's weight gain in pregnancy, or how physically active each children was, did not explain the difference in fat levels. Study author Dr Siân Robinson at Southampton added that "In the context of current concerns about low vitamin D status in young women, and increasing rates of childhood obesity, we need to understand more about the long-term health consequences for children who are born to mothers who have low vitamin D status. Although there is growing evidence that vitamin D status is linked to body fatness in children and adults, this research now suggests that the mother's status in pregnancy is important too.”
The research team concluded that although further studies are definitely needed, the data shows that there could be effects on the fetus due to a lack of maternal vitamin D that stay with a child and predispose them to gain more body fat in later in life. The multi-disciplinary research sheds new light on how factors during pregnancy might have a long-term influence on childhood growth and development. The observations that maternal vitamin D insufficiencies are associated with reduced size at birth and a gain in body fat during childhood definitely suggest that vitamin D levels during pregnancy can have critical effects on a person’s overall health later in life.