Researchers link vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy with neurobehavioral and metabolic disorders in offspring

April 16, 2019

The global prevalence of vitamin D deficiency (VDD) during pregnancy is high, estimated at up to 80 percent in the United States and up to 100 percent in Northern Europe. A new review and perspective piece discusses evidence for the role of maternal vitamin D deficiency in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD).

Dr. Folami Yetunde Ideraabdullah

Dr. Folami Yetunde Ideraabdullah

The review, titled, “Maternal vitamin D deficiency and developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD),” was published online March 1 by the Journal of Endocrinology.

First author Folami Yetunde Ideraabdullah, PhD, is an assistant professor of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and an assistant professor of genetics at the UNC School of Medicine.

“The paper provides a cross study comparison covering evidence from human, rodent and zebrafish studies in metabolic and neurobehavioral health,” Ideraabdullah said. “The evidence supports findings that link maternal vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy with multiple disorders in offspring later in life.”

To date, animal models have served as valuable research tools for answering key mechanistic questions about the role of VDD in DOHaD by providing access to developmental time points and target tissues inaccessible in most human studies.

“Rodent models of VDD during pregnancy recapitulate many autism-like behaviors in juvenile and adult offspring; they also recapitulate human metabolic disorders, including offspring with later-life increased adiposity, insulin resistance, increased blood pressure and impaired lipid metabolism,” Ideraabdullah explained. “The effects often persist over multiple generations.”

The researchers also delved into the evidence implicating epigenetic mechanisms as a mediator of the VDD-DOHaD link, and outlined gaps in current understanding of how maternal VDD — an easily preventable nutritional disturbance —might result in poor offspring outcomes later in life.

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