A recent study of vitamin D levels in pregnant women has revealed a remarkable finding. Children born to women with a lower vitamin D level during pregnancy have increased body fat later in childhood compared to those children whose mothers have a higher vitamin D level.
A maternal vitamin D level less than 50 nmol/L was associated with increased fat mass in children at 4 and 6 years of age. Children in the study had an 8 percent reduction in fat mass if their mothers had a vitamin D level of 50-75 nmol/L. The mother’s own levels of fat (body mass index) did not have any effect on the study results. The authors suggest that vitamin D insufficiency during pregnancy may program the child to gain excess fat later in life. Other studies have also confirmed an association between vitamin D intake and fat mass in adults.
This study adds to the growing body of evidence that has found higher levels of health in children born to mothers with adequate vitamin D stores during pregnancy. A higher vitamin D level during pregnancy is associated with less respiratory problems in babies, and a higher cord blood vitamin D level also correlates with less allergies and respiratory infections.
Pregnant women should have their vitamin D levels checked repeatedly during pregnancy and take a vitamin D supplement to maintain blood levels between 75 and 100 nmol/L.
Sarah R Crozier, Nicholas C Harvey, Hazel M Inskip, Keith M Godfrey, Cyrus Cooper, Siân M Robinson, and the SWS Study Group. Maternal vitamin D status in pregnancy is associated with adiposity in the offspring: findings from the Southampton Women’s Survey. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.037473 July 2012.