Low vitamin D in womb linked to more weight at age 6 – May 2012

Lack of maternal vitamin D may predispose baby to gain excess body fat in childhood

CBC News Posted: May 23, 2012 2:39 PM ET

(unfortunately, the abstract does not quantize the amount of weight)

Children of women with low blood levels of vitamin D were leaner at birth, researchers found. But by the time they reached age six, those children had more body fat than those born to women with higher vitamin D status during pregnancy.

There are concerns about the prevalence of low vitamin D status among women of reproductive age, researchers say. (Erik de Castro/Reuters)
"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," Dr. Siân Robinson, who led the study at the University of Southampton, said in a release Wednesday.

"An interpretation of our data is that there could be programmed effects on the fetus arising from a lack of maternal vitamin D that remain with the baby and predispose him or her to gain excess body fat in later childhood. Although further studies are needed, our findings add weight to current concerns about the prevalence of low vitamin D status among women of reproductive age."

The study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at 977 women and their children. The women had their vitamin D levels sampled at 34 weeks gestation.

Seasonal difference

The children had their heights and weights measured and their body composition checked using pediatric scanners called DXA within three weeks of birth and at ages four and six.

When the researchers modeled potential influences of the sunshine vitamin levels in pregnancy, they found among women who had samples taken in the summer, 84 per cent had higher concentrations compared with 23 per cent for those whose samples were taken in the winter and spring.

The study's authors said taking vitamin D supplements in late pregnancy was the second most important predictor. In the UK, women are advised to take 10 micrograms of vitamin D in pregnancy.

The analysis also took factors such as maternal height, age, number of children, education, smoking and vitamin D intake from food and supplements into consideration.

The researchers said the use of DXA is well validated in adults but that newborns and young children differ in their bone mineral content and tend to move more during the measurements, which could affect accuracy.

They speculated that there may be different routes to higher fat levels in childhood that are associated with both insufficient and excessive nutrition in pregnancy.

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation, Food Standards Agency and Arthritis Research UK. The research was part of a wider investigation by the Medical Research Council's epidemiology unit, which is looking at the long-term effects on children of environmental factors in pregnancy.

One of the authors has received speaking fees and research funding from multinational food companies.
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Maternal vitamin D status in pregnancy is associated with adiposity in the offspring: findings from the Southampton Women's Survey 1,2,3,4

Sarah R Crozier, Nicholas C Harvey, Hazel M Inskip, Keith M Godfrey, Cyrus Cooper, Siân M Robinson, and the SWS Study Group
1 From the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (SRC, NCH, HMI, KMG, CC, and SMR) and the Southampton NIHR Biomedical Research Unit in Nutrition, Diet, and Lifestyle (University of Southampton and Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust) (KMG), Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, United Kingdom.
2 CC and SMR are joint senior authors.
3 Supported by the Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation, the Food Standards Agency, and Arthritis Research UK. KMG is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) through the Southampton NIHR Biomedical Research Unit in Nutrition, Diet, and Lifestyle.
4 Address correspondence to SM Robinson, MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (University of Southampton), Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, United Kingdom. E-mail: smr@mrc.soton.ac.uk.

Background: Low vitamin D status has been linked to adiposity, but little is known of the effects of low status in pregnancy on offspring body composition.

Objective: The objective was to determine how maternal vitamin D status relates to lean and fat mass of the offspring.

Design: The offspring of 977 pregnant women, who had serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] measured at 34 wk gestation, were followed up within 3 wk of birth and at 4 and 6 y of age for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry assessment of lean and fat mass.

Results: The median maternal serum 25(OH)D concentration was 62 nmol/L (IQR: 43–89 nmol/L); 35% of the women studied had values <50 nmol/L. Lower vitamin D status was associated with lower fat mass in the offspring at birth but with greater fat mass at ages 4 and 6 y. It was not associated with lean mass at any of the ages studied. The opposing associations seen between maternal 25(OH)D (SDs) and fat mass (SDs) in the offspring at birth and at age 6 y were robust to adjustment for a range of confounding factors, including maternal BMI and weight gain in pregnancy [? (95% CI): 0.08 (0.02, 0.15) and ?0.10 (?0.17, –0.02), respectively]. The key independent predictors of higher maternal vitamin D status were season of assessment and use of vitamin D supplements.

Conclusions: Lower maternal vitamin D status may be linked to programmed differences in offspring fat mass. The findings require replication but add to a growing evidence base for a role of vitamin D in the origins of adiposity.

Seems reasonable

Low vitamin D while in womb provides an epigenetic signal that the child should anticipate an environment with low nutrients, such as vitamin D.
The child’s body is thus programmed to seek out and store up as much nutrients/food as it can, which leads to health when food is rare, but obesity when food is plentiful.

See also VitaminDWiki

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