- Vitamin D supplements during pregnancy might lead to childhood obesity
- Intake of optimal vitamin D levels during pregnancy can help protect childhood obesity
- Higher amounts of vitamin D can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys
- Vitamin D supplements in early pregnancy can be an easy fix to protect future generations
Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can lead to obesity in children and adults, reveals a new study.
In this study, the 6-year-olds who were born to mothers with very low vitamin D levels during their first trimester were found to have bigger waists, half an inch bulkier on average than their peers whose mothers had sufficient amounts of vitamin D in early pregnancy. However, even these kids had two percent more body fat.
‘Infants are at a higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency, as their vitamin D status depends entirely on the mother's vitamin D levels.’
"These increases may not seem like much, but we're not talking about older adults who have about 30 percent body fat. Even a half-inch increase in waist circumference is a big deal, especially if you project this fat surplus across their lifespan," said Vaia Lida Chatzi, senior author of the study and an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC-led study.
The study was published in the journal Pediatric Obesity
. The research team examined the data of about 532 mother-child pairs in Greece.
During the first prenatal visit, maternal vitamin D concentrations were measured. Later, the child's health and weight were measured at four and six years.
The 'Sunshine Vitamin.'
About 75 percent of U.S. teenagers and adults have very low vitamin D levels, reveals a 2009 study. Deficiency of vitamin D increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.
Infants are at a higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency, as their vitamin D status depends entirely on the mother's vitamin D level.
About 95 percent of the vitamin D produced in the body comes from the sunshine and the remaining five percent is obtained from eggs, fish liver oil, fatty fish, and fortified foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, and cereal,
Chatzi also said "We're not sure why there is vitamin D deficiency even in places with abundant sunshine, but maybe people are spending too much time indoors with their screens or typing away in their office cubicles, or maybe they're using excessive amounts of sunscreen, which inhibits vitamin D production."
Lack of Vitamin D during Pregnancy
Over the last two decades, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency has increased among pregnant women.
In this study, about 66 percent of the pregnant women were found to have insufficient vitamin D levels in their first trimester, which is a critical period for the development of the organs.
Previous studies reveal as to why low levels of vitamin D could be a problem.
In animal studies, it was revealed that vitamin D suppresses pre-fat cells, otherwise known as adipocytes from maturing into fat cells.
Test tube studies of human fat cells also revealed that vitamin D could hinder pre-fat cells from maturing into fat cells.
Chatzi said that it is possible that children of mothers with low vitamin D levels could have higher body mass index (BMI) and body fat when vitamin D appears to disrupt the formation of fat cells.
Optimal vitamin D levels required during pregnancy can help protect childhood obesity. However, further research is necessary to confirm these findings.
Vitamin D supplements in early pregnancy can be an easy fix to protect future generations.
Advice to Mothers: Take Prenatal Vitamins
In this study, none of the Greek women took prenatal vitamin D supplements.
Most American doctors recommend women to take prenatal vitamins even before they are conceived to make sure that folic acid, iron, calcium and other nutrient levels are adequate to prevent congenital disabilities.
Most prenatal vitamins contain about 400 international units (IU) (10 micrograms) of vitamin D per tablet.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D has not yet been set by the federal government. However, many people agree that the dietary intake of the vitamin D should increase with age.
The Institute of Medicine of The National Academies recommends that women who are between 1 and 70 years consume 600 IU (15 micrograms) of vitamin D daily, regardless of their pregnancy status.
The group sets maximum tolerable levels at 4,000 IU (100 micrograms) for pregnant and non-pregnant women who are 19 and older, and lower levels are recommended based on their age.
Too much of vitamin D can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys, reveals the National Institutes of Health.
"It's too early for researchers to recommend increasing the standard amount of vitamin D contained in prenatal vitamins. First we need to conduct randomized clinical trials," said Chatzi.