Every mom wants her child to grow up to have strong muscles. Muscles are what allow the body to move and function, and they also play an important role in the metabolic process. However, emerging studies show that many of today’s children aren’t getting enough vitamin D to spark good muscle growth. While part of the problem may be related to less active time spent outdoors, another part may even occur before the child is born. A recent long-term study published in the January edition of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that optimal muscle growth in children is related to mom’s vitamin D intake during her pregnancy.

For the study, researchers at the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton reviewed 678 mothers in the later stages of their pregnancies. The review included blood tests to determine the amount of vitamin D in the mother’s system. Then, researchers measured the grip strength and muscle mass of the children at age 4. Their results indicated that mothers with higher levels of vitamin D during pregnancy bore children with higher grip strength and muscle mass. According to researchers, these results are likely to continue on into adulthood.

“These associations … may well have consequences for later health; muscle strength peaks in young adulthood before declining in older age and low grip strength in adulthood has been associated with poor health outcomes including diabetes, falls and fractures,” commented lead researcher Nicholas Harvey, Ph.D. “It is likely that the greater muscle strength observed at four years … will track into adulthood, and so potentially help to reduce the burden of illness associated with loss of muscle mass in old age.”

Harvey and his team drew their data from the Southampton Women’s Survey, which is one of the largest and best characterized studies currently in the world. Later data from the survey may well prove Harvey’s hypothesis. In the meantime, expecting moms are advised to load up on their vitamin D.

D deficiencies are a growing problem, doctors say
Vitamin D deficiencies are common in women in their childbearing years, and while supplements are available, many women choose not to take them. With recent new stories questioning the value of store-bought supplements, many aren’t convinced that what they’re paying for is actually present in over-the-counter pills. As the FDA doesn’t currently regulate these types of supplements, they may in fact be right.

Many doctors recommend that women and children get their vitamin D from fortified sources, such as orange juice. Many popular brands of orange juice offer fortified products to help them develop healthy bone and muscle mass. Many milk and breakfast cereal brands offer fortified products for the same reason.

If you want to ensure that your child is getting the vitamin D he or she needs to grow up strong, make sure he or she is getting the recommended amount by including plenty of these foods into his or her diet.

If you’re pregnant and you’d like to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D, ask your doctor or pharmacist how to get pharmacy-grade supplements. Pharmacy-grade products are tested and trustworthy sources of the vitamins and minerals you need to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

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