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BACKGROUND: Studies in older adults and animals have suggested contrasting relations between bone health and different vitamin A compounds. To our knowledge, the associations between maternal vitamin A status and offspring bone development have not previously been elucidated. OBJECTIVE: We examined the associations between maternal serum retinol and β-carotene concentrations during late pregnancy and offspring bone mineralization assessed at birth with the use of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. DESIGN: In the Southampton Women's Survey mother-offspring birth cohort, maternal health, lifestyle, and diet were assessed prepregnancy and at 11 and 34 wk of gestation. In late pregnancy, maternal serum retinol and β-carotene concentrations were measured. Offspring total body bone mineral density (BMD), bone mineral content (BMC), and bone area (BA) were measured within 2 wk after birth. RESULTS: In total, 520 and 446 mother-offspring pairs had measurements of maternal serum retinol and β-carotene, respectively. Higher maternal serum retinol in late pregnancy was associated with lower offspring total body BMC (β = -0.10 SD/SD; 95% CI: -0.19, -0.02; P = 0.020) and BA (β = -0.12 SD/SD; 95% CI: -0.20, -0.03; P = 0.009) but not BMD. Conversely, higher maternal serum β-carotene concentrations in late pregnancy were associated with greater total body BMC (β = 0.12 SD/SD; 95% CI: 0.02, 0.21; P = 0.016) and BA (β = 0.12 SD/SD; 95% CI: 0.03, 0.22; P = 0.010) but not BMD. CONCLUSIONS: Maternal serum retinol and β-carotene concentrations had differing associations with offspring bone size and growth at birth: retinol was negatively associated with these measurements, whereas β-carotene was positively associated. These findings highlight the need for further investigation of the effects of maternal retinol and carotenoid status on offspring bone development.

Original publication




Journal article


Am j clin nutr

Publication Date





1183 - 1188


bone development, epidemiology, pregnancy, retinol, vitamin A, β-carotene, Absorptiometry, Photon, Adult, Bone Density, Bone Development, Bone and Bones, Calcification, Physiologic, Female, Fetal Development, Gestational Age, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Male, Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena, Nutritional Status, Pregnancy, United Kingdom, Vitamin A, beta Carotene