Vitamin D in pregnancy linked to strength of four-year-old children

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Children grow up stronger if their mothers had more vitamin D in their bodies while pregnant, a study has found.

Scientists made the discovery after recording levels of vitamin D in the blood of 678 women in the later stages of pregnancy.

When their children were four years old, their grip strength and muscle mass were measured.

Results showed that the more vitamin D were in the mother, the greater was the child’s grip strength. A similar though less pronounced correlation was seen with muscle mass.

Lead scientist Dr Nicholas Harvey, from the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (MRC LEU) at the University of Southampton, said: “These associations between maternal vitamin D and offspring muscle strength may well have consequences for later health; muscle strength peaks in young adulthood before declining in older age and low grip strength in adulthood has been associated with poor health outcomes including diabetes, falls and fractures.

“It is likely that the greater muscle strength observed at four years of age in children born to mothers with higher vitamin D levels will track into adulthood, and so potentially help to reduce the burden of illness associated with loss of muscle mass in old age.”

Lack of vitamin D has previously been linked to reduced muscle strength in both adults and children.

Women are advised to take a 10 microgram vitamin D supplement daily during pregnancy.

The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Professor Cyrus Cooper, director of the MRC LEU, said: “This study forms part of a larger programme of research at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit and University of Southampton in which we are seeking to understand how factors such as diet and lifestyle in the mother during pregnancy influence a child’s body composition and bone development.