Children are likely to have stronger muscles if their mothers had a higher level of vitamin D in their body during pregnancy, new research shows.
Low vitamin D status has been linked to reduced muscle strength in adults and children, but little is known about how variation in a mother’s status during pregnancy affects her child.
Among young women in the UK, low vitamin D concentrations are common—and they often don’t take the recommended additional 10 micrograms a day while pregnant.
For a new study published in the January edition of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers measured vitamin D levels in 678 mothers in the later stages of pregnancy.
When their children were four years old, grip strength and muscle mass were measured. The higher the levels of vitamin D in the mother, the higher the grip strength of the child, with an additional, but less pronounced association between mother’s vitamin D and child’s muscle mass.
“These associations between maternal vitamin D and offspring muscle strength may well have consequences for later health,” says lead researcher Nicholas Harvey, senior lecturer at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton.
“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.”
The 678 women who took part in the study are part of the Southampton Women’s Survey, one of the largest and best characterized such studies globally.
Source: University of Southampton