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High Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy Could Strengthen Babies

Update Date: Jan 03, 2014 10:51 AM EST

Vitamin D is essential for bone health because it enhances the body's ability to absorb calcium and phosphate. Vitamin D can be found in select foods but is more commonly sourced from sunlight. Several studies have tied a vitamin D deficiency to weaker and more fragile bone health. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of vitamin D on unborn babies. The researchers from the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (MRC LEU) concluded that pregnant women who have higher levels of vitamin D are more likely to give birth to children with stronger muscles.

In this study, the researchers recorded the vitamin D levels in 678 pregnant women who were in their later stages of pregnancy. The participants were a part of the Southampton Women's Survey, which was one of the largest studies that were conducted in this subject. The team measured the children's grip strength and muscle mass when they were four-years-old. The researchers found that higher levels of vitamin D in the mother during pregnancy correlated to higher grip strength and a slightly higher muscle mass in their children.

"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," lead researcher Dr. Nicholas Harvey, Senior Lecturer at the MRC LEU at the University of Southampton, commented according to Medical Xpress. "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 researchers stated that even though their findings did not prove a cause-and effect relationship, pregnant women should consider getting more vitamin D into their system during pregnancy. However, people in general should be careful about ingesting too much. Extremely high levels of vitamin D, called vitamin D toxicity, could lead to anorexia, weight loss or heart arrhythmias according to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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

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