The Changing Relationship Between Obesity and Vitamin D in Pregnancy
Mothers who are overweight and obese at the beginning of their pregnancies can cause health problems for their unborn children. They may not have sufficient amounts of vitamin D to pass on to their babies. This is the worrying conclusion of piece of research from Northwestern Medicine.
This research discovered that babies of leaner mothers had almost one-third more of the required vitamin D than did the babies born to heavier mothers. Vitamin D dissolves in fat. Other studies have already informed us that overweight individuals and especially those classified as obese generally are deficient in levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream.
This latest research adds to our knowledge in that all of the pregnant women had roughly equivalent levels of vitamin D towards the final stages of pregnancy. But the bigger mothers passed less of their vitamin D to their babies in comparison to slimmer women. Almost all of the women in this research, were aware of the benefits and took extra vitamins specially for pregnancy. This certainly helped to explain the adequate levels of vitamin D at the start of the gestation period. But the fact remains that insufficient levels of the vitamin made the transition to the children of the overweight mothers. One possibility is that the vitamin gets absorbed into the excess body fat of the overweight women and thereby withheld from the fetus.
The dangers inherent in child deficiency of vitamin D are well documented. They all stem from an underdeveloped autoimmune system and result in higher risk factors for all kinds of disease, inflammation in a continuation of obesity into the next generation. The researched can be read in the January 4 ‘Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism’. They are interim conclusions from a much longer term study that is looking into the role of body fat in pregnancy and infant health. As well as development in older children and young adults.
Because of the essential role vitamin D plays in general health terms, and especially it’s link to obesity, the scientists made a point of focusing on vitamin D levels in both the mothers and their babies. 61 pregnant women who had their babies at Prentice Women’s Hospital of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago took part in the study. They were all subject to accurate body mass indices measurement before their pregnancies and were in two categories; normal or obese.
Blood tests including their vitamin D levels were then conducted with samples from the pregnant women at 2 week intervals during the final month of gestation. Blood samples were tested from the umbilical cord of the new-borns just minutes after their births. All of the usual infant measurements were taken, such as body fat, weight, and volume as well as air displacement plethysmography with the Pea Pod Infant Body Composition System. These were correlated with the measure from the mothers.
The variations in body fat between the infants in this research was no different to other studies reporting new-born body fat. What was different this study was the link found between raised vitamin D levels and babies with raised levels of body fat. This is the reversal of the relationship found in children and adults. Normally the more vitamin D the lower the BMI. A great deal more research is needed around the part played by vitamin D in the general health of infants and babies.