Study finds surprise benefit of taking Vitamin D

A healthy intake of vitamin D in the first year of life appears to set toddlers up to have more muscle mass and less body fat, according to a Canadian study.

The findings emerged from research initially aimed at confirming the importance of vitamin D for bone density. The additional benefit in terms of body composition came as a surprise, say the researchers from McGill University in Montreal.

“We were very intrigued by the higher lean mass, the possibility that vitamin D can help infants to not only grow healthy skeletons but also healthy skeletons but also healthy amounts of muscle and less fat,” says Dr Hope Weiler, study co-author.

The researchers followed up on a 2013 study in which 132 infants in Montreal, Quebec, were given a vitamin D3 supplement at one of four different dosages between the ages of one month and 12 months.

The study confirmed the importance of supplementation, at least in Canada where winters are long. It is also found children who had good vitamin D averaged around 450 grams less body fat at three years of age.

Further analysis indicated a correlation between lean muscle mass and the average level of vitamin D in the body over the first three years of a child’s life. The only other factor found to make a significant difference to the children’s amount of body fat was their level of physical activity.

According to Australian guidelines, it is not necessary to initiate vitamin D supplementation in an otherwise healthy term newborn, with no infant or maternal risk factors. However, asymptomatic infants at risk of vitamin D deficiency should routinely be started on a vitamin D supplement in the first days of life.

At risk infants include:

  • Babies born at < 37 weeks gestation;
  • Babies with birth weight <2kg;
  • Dark skinned babies, even if maternal vitamin D levels were normal in pregnancy;
  • Babies of mothers with known vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy; and
  • Babies of untreated mothers who had been at risk of vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy

Source: 6 minutes-Nutrition Update, 12 May 2016