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Is Prenatal Vitamin D Linked to Low Birth Weight?

A recent study evaluated if there is an association between prenatal vitamin D status and postnatal growth, metabolism, and fat gain.

David Barker, a well-known epidemiologist, hypothesized that the onset of diseases in adulthood is in part caused by a lack of nutrition in the prenatal stage of development. He suggested that prenatal deficiencies inevitably translate into postnatal issues in terms of body composition and physiology. One of the most common forms of deficiencies is identified through the outcome of low birth weight. The recovery period required to reinstate a child’s appropriate weight and height often lead to metabolism concerns and hormone dysregulation. To further assess this potential link between prenatal nutrition status and postnatal growth, a Canadian study published in the British Journal of Nutrition focuses on the postnatal consequences of prenatal vitamin D deficiency.

The research was carried out through a systematic review and meta-analysis of previously published papers. The analysis included studies conducted up to July 2017. A total of 30 English language studies qualified for the research, based on the outlined parameters. The research incorporated data from 35,032 mother-child pairs. The contributors classified standard values for low prenatal vitamin D status, low birth weight, and elevated weight across all studies.

The findings suggested that low levels of prenatal vitamin D were correlated with an increased risk of small for gestational age and lower birth weight. In contrast, at nine months of age, low prenatal vitamin D levels were associated with greater weight despite no visible increase in length. As a result, the research implies that low prenatal vitamin D levels may be linked to accelerated postnatal growth and increased adiposity (the amount of body weight that is from fat). Prenatal vitamin D was not found to have correlations with other growth characteristics at nine years of age, four to six years of age, one year of age, or at birth.

The research presents a potential link between prenatal nutritional levels with postnatal symptoms. Although further research is required to solidify these findings, the study presents valuable information to promote adequate maternal and prenatal health. As a result, medical professionals may be able to utilize this newfound data to prevent cases of small for gestational age and low birth weights. Expanding the scope of the systematic review to studies conducted in non-English languages may also provide more accurate information for a global population.

Written by Shrishti Ahuja, HBSc

Reference: Santamaria, C., Bi, W. G., Leduc, L., Tabatabaei, N., Jantchou, P., Luo, Z., . . . Wei, S. Q. (2018). Prenatal vitamin D status and offspring’s growth, adiposity and metabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, 1-10. doi:10.1017/s0007114517003646

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