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CONTEXT: Maternal 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] status in pregnancy has been associated with offspring bone development and adiposity. Vitamin D has also been implicated in postnatal muscle function, but little is known about a role for antenatal 25(OH)D exposure in programming muscle development. OBJECTIVE: We investigated the associations between maternal plasma 25(OH)D status at 34 weeks of gestation and offspring lean mass and muscle strength at 4 years of age. DESIGN AND SETTING: We studied a prospective UK population-based mother-offspring cohort: the Southampton Women's Survey (SWS). PARTICIPANTS: Initially, 12,583 nonpregnant women were recruited into the SWS, of whom 3159 had singleton pregnancies; 678 mother-child pairs were included in this analysis. MAIN OUTCOMES MEASURED: At 4 years of age, offspring assessments included hand grip strength and whole-body dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, yielding lean mass and percent lean mass. Physical activity was assessed by 7-day accelerometry in a subset of children (n=326). RESULTS: The maternal serum 25(OH)D concentration in pregnancy was positively associated with offspring height-adjusted hand grip strength (β=0.10 SD/SD, P=.013), which persisted after adjustment for maternal confounding factors, duration of breastfeeding, and child's physical activity at 4 years (β=0.13 SD/SD, P=.014). Maternal 25(OH)D was also positively associated with offspring percent lean mass (β=0.11 SD/SD, P=.006), but not total lean mass (β=0.06 SD/SD, P=.15). However, this association did not persist after adjustment for confounding factors (β=0.09 SD/SD, P=.11). CONCLUSIONS: This observational study suggests that intrauterine exposure to 25(OH)D during late pregnancy might influence offspring muscle development through an effect primarily on muscle strength rather than on muscle mass.

Original publication




Journal article


J clin endocrinol metab

Publication Date





330 - 337


Adult, Child, Preschool, Data Collection, Female, Hand Strength, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena, Mothers, Muscle Development, Muscle Strength, Nutritional Status, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Complications, Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects, United Kingdom, Vitamin D, Vitamin D Deficiency, Young Adult