There has been a lots of news lately about the importance of avoiding vitamin D deficiency in the battle to protect ourselves from coronavirus, but it's now also been shown to be important for an infant's health and wellbeing throughout childhood. A new study by the University of Michigan School of Public Health indicates higher levels of vitamin D in the first year of life can help protect children against obesity in adolescence.
The study used data from more than 300 children from a group of about 1,800 participants recruited as infants. The researchers followed the children, who came from 50 low-and middle-income neighbourhoods in Santiago, Chile, through to adolescence for a cardiovascular risk assessment.
Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers focused on measuring blood concentration at age 1 and examined its association with body mass index-for-age at ages 5, 10, and 16-17. They also measured the percentage of fat and muscle mass and a metabolic syndrome score and its components (waist circumference, blood pressure, blood lipids, insulin resistance) at age 16-17. Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions such as high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels that together increase risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
The researchers found that every extra unit of vitamin D in the blood of a 1-year-old was related to a slower gain in BMI between ages 1 and 5, a lower metabolic risk score at age 16-17, and less body fat and more muscle mass in adolescence. In summary, higher vitamin D levels in the first year of life were associated with lower obesity levels throughout adolescence.
“We can never tell from an observational study if there is causation but at least from a predictive point of view, the fact that a single measure of vitamin D in early life predicts cardiovascular risk over such a long period is compelling,” says senior author Eduardo Villamor, professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.