A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that mothers, who have a higher intake of vitamin D during pregnancy are more likely to have offspring with stronger muscles.
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream, as well as help cells communicate. This is why many calcium supplements contain vitamin D as well.
The main source of vitamin D for the body is sunlight, but foods like fatty fish, eggs, fortified cereals and milk are excellent sources.
Previous research have linked low vitamin D levels with decreased muscle strength in children and adults but have little knowledge on how a child may be affected by his or her mother’s vitamin D intake during pregnancy.
To investigate this, researchers from the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton measured the vitamin D levels of 678 pregnant women from the Southampton’s Women Survey.
Four years later, the children’s grip strength and muscle mass were measured.
The researchers found that the mothers with higher levels of vitamin D levels had children with stronger grips compared to the lower vitamin D counterpart.
Lead author Dr. Nicholas Harvey believes their findings suggest that the link between maternal vitamin D and offspring muscle strength could impact a child’s strength later in life.
He clarifies, "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 4 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."
Co-author professor Cyrus Cooper of the University of Southampton notes that this research is part of a larger research program targeting to determine how diet and lifestyle factors during pregnancy can impact a child’s bone development and body composition.
"This work should help us to design interventions aimed at optimizing body composition in childhood and later adulthood and thus improve the health of future generations," he adds.
Written by Stephen Umunna