High vitamin D intake during pregnancy may increase the child’s muscle strength, according to a new study. Increased muscle strength provides lifelong health benefits to the child. Low vitamin D levels are common among young women in the UK, where the study took place. Calls to increase vitamin D intake by at least 10 micrograms goes largely ignored.
Vitamin D helps regulate calcium in the bloodstream and improves communication between cells. The human body gets most of its vitamin D supply from the sun. Foods, such as fortified cereals, certain fish, powdered milk and eggs contain vitamin D.
Scientists already know that low vitamin D levels affect muscle strength in adults and children but they know little about how a pregnant woman’s vitamin D levels affect her unborn baby. To learn more about the association between maternal vitamin D intake and muscle health in offspring, researchers measured the vitamin D levels of 378 pregnant women Southampton's Women's Survey. Each study participant was at 34 weeks gestation at the time of testing.
The scientists then measured the grip strength and muscle mass of the offspring when the children were four years old. Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the results of the study show mothers with high vitamin D levels bore children with increased muscle mass. The child’s grip strength directly correlated with vitamin D levels – mothers with the highest vitamin D levels had the strongest children. This study establishes a link between maternal vitamin level and offspring muscle health.
Low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy could have lifelong health consequences for the child. A person’s muscle strength reaches its peak in early adulthood then steadily declines. An adult with low grip strength is at increased risk for a variety of conditions, including diabetes, falls and fractured bones. Increasing vitamin D during pregnancy provides benefits to the mother too. One recent study suggests the vitamin can reduce depression and pain in women.
- Whiteman, Honor. "Vitamin D levels during pregnancy linked to offspring muscle strength." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 6 Jan. 2014. Web. 11 Jan. 2014.
- Whiteman, Honor. "Vitamin D 'reduces pain and depression' in type 2 diabetic women." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 5 Dec. 2013. Web. 11 Jan. 2014.