Date Published: 8 January 2006

Weaker bones in children linked to mothers vitamin D levels in pregnancy

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

A team at the Medical Research Council's Epidemiology Resource Centre at Southampton University in England has found that maternal vitamin D deficiency is associated with poor skeletal growth of children and therefore an elevated risk of bone fracture in later life. The study is published the latest issue of The Lancet.

The researchers carried out bone scans of 200 nine-year-old children whose mothers had taken part in a nutritional survey during pregnancy. They found that the poorer the mother's vitamin D status during pregnancy, the lower her child's bone mass tended to be at nine years of age. This deficit manifests as a reduction in bone size and bone mineral content.

The study found that pregnant women who took vitamin D supplements and were exposed to higher levels of sunlight, which helps the body to produce its own vitamin D, were less likely to be deficient in the vitamin.

Professor Cyrus Cooper, the leader of the MRC research team and Chair of the National Osteoporosis Society said:

" These findings provide unique evidence that a mother's vitamin D status during pregnancy has a long-lasting effect on her child's bone development.

_ Vitamin D deficiency is common in pregnant women, and we know that developing high bone mass during childhood and adolescence is important for reducing the risk of osteoporosis in later life. Therefore, measures to improve levels of vitamin D, such as taking supplements, particularly during the winter months when sunlight levels are low, may help to prevent osteoporosis in the next generation."

Other factors such as maternal body build, nutrition, smoking and physical activity during pregnancy have also been shown to affect the strength of a baby's bones at birth.

Professor Colin Blakemore, the Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council said:

" These results provide valuable information that should have a real impact in preventing bone disorders. This study is an excellent example of the importance of investment in long-term epidemiological research. The Medical Research Council, working with many partner organisations in the UK, is committed to translating the results of medical research as quickly and effectively as possible into preventive healthcare strategies."

Source(s): Southampton University (England, UK).

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