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Deakin University researcher, Associate Professor Julie Pasco, has been awarded a grant from the Bupa Health Foundation to investigate the relationship between mothers’ vitamin D levels during pregnancy and musculoskeletal development in the offspring.
“The study was initiated in 2002, when expectant mothers were recruited through the antenatal clinic at Barwon Health,” said Associate Professor Julie Pasco, lead investigator of the study and Head of the Barwon Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit.
“In an early phase of the study, we showed that infants whose mothers had low vitamin D levels during pregnancy, had sub-optimal bone growth.
“We now have a unique opportunity to measure growth and development of these children as they turn nine.
“As part of this study, we will measure body size, bone growth, muscle development and adiposity in the children.
“Whilst it is clear that severe vitamin D deficiency in mothers is associated with soft bones (rickets) in their offspring, more information is required about the effects of moderately low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy.
The study is poised to contribute new information to inform a growing policy debate regarding vitamin D supplementation recommendations during pregnancy.
Osteoporosis is a major public health problem in Australia and its prevalence is set to escalate as the population ages.
Therefore, attainment of the highest possible peak bone mass in all young adults is a high priority public health goal.
“It is likely that optimising vitamin D levels in all pregnant women will improve peak bone mass in their offspring into adulthood.”
The study involves about 350 children from the Geelong region and will take three years to complete.