Mother’s Vitamin D Status and Childhood Obesity
Vitamin D has gotten a lot of press lately as it has been found to play a role in your body’s ability to maintain a healthy weight. Obese people tend to have lower vitamin D levels, partially because vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, is trapped inside fat cells, leaving less to circulate in the blood. One study showed that obese people had 57% lower levels of vitamin D than normal weight people after both received vitamin D supplementation. People with higher levels of vitamin D are also more successful at losing weight on low-calorie diets, than those with low levels of the vitamin. But, did you know that a mother’s vitamin D level could affect the weight of her unborn child?
A recent 2012 study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that children are likely to have more body fat during childhood if their mother had low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy. Researchers compared vitamin D levels of 977 pregnant women and looked at the body composition of their children. The study found that children born to mothers with low vitamin D levels had more body fat at six years old than those born to mothers who had normal vitamin D levels. The differences seen in the body composition of these children could not be explained by other confounding factors like the child’s physical activity level or the mother’s weight gain during pregnancy.
So, what can you do if you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant? If you are not pregnant yet, get your vitamin D level checked by your doctor. If you are deficient, your doctor may give you prescription strength vitamin D to help improve your levels. If you are pregnant, the recommended amount of vitamin D by the Institute of Medicine is 600 IU’s per day, but some studies have shown that up to 4,000 IUs may be beneficial to prevent birth defects and complications during pregnancy. Ask your doctor before supplementing with high levels of the vitamin. What is in most good pre-natal vitamins should be sufficient for most women. If you are really concerned about supplementation, get outside! Most of our vitamin D comes from sun exposure anyway!