(RxWiki News) Want to know one way you can potentially reduce your child's likelihood of becoming overweight before he or she is even born? Make sure you have enough vitamin D in your system.
A recent study has found a link between insufficient vitamin D levels in pregnant women and a greater amount of body fat in their children later on in childhood.
This data adds to the growing evidence linking obesity in adults and children to lower vitamin D levels.
"Take your vitamin D while pregnant."
Siân Robinson, a Principal Research Fellow at the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton in England, led the study.
The researchers gathered data on the vitamin D levels of 977 women when they were 34 weeks pregnant.
Then the researchers took body composition measurements of the women's children at 3 weeks old, 4 years old and 6 years old.
The average vitamin D levels among the women was 62 nmol/L, but 35 percent of them had values of vitamin D below 50 nmol/L.
The women with the lower levels of vitamin D tended to have newborns with a lower fat mass, but that association flipped when the kids were older. At ages 4 and 6, the children had a greater amount of fat mass on average than the children of mothers whose vitamin D status was sufficient during pregnancy.
The association remained after researchers took into account various other factors, including the weight of the mothers and how much weight the mothers gained during pregnancy.
"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," Robinson said.
"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," she said.
Natural sources of vitamin D include sunshine, fortified milk, alfalfa, various mushrooms and fatty fishes like tuna, salmon and catfish.
The study appeared online May 23 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The research was funded by the Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation, the Food Standards Agency and Arthritis Research UK. No conflicts of interest were noted.