First study to look at how paternal vitamin D intake affects a baby's health
Researchers at the University College Dublin have found a direct link between a child's height and weight at the age of 5 and their father's pre-conception vitamin levels. Previous studies have clearly shown how maternal vitamin D intake before pregnancy affects a baby's health but this is the first on to look for the same result in men.
The study included data from 213 father-child pairs from the Lifeways Cross Generation Cohort study (a unique longitudinal database in Ireland) when the children were aged 5 and 9.
A questionnaire was undertaken to assess a number of factors including paternal age, energy intake, height and weight as well as maternal age, vitamin D and energy intake, height and weight. They also looked at the child's sec, age, vitamin D and energy intake and summer outdoor physical activity at the age of 5.
Paternal vitamin D intake directly impacted their child's height and weight in the early years
On completion of the analysis the data showed paternal vitamin D intake directly impacted their child's height and weight in the early years. However the correlation dropped off when the child grew older than 9.
Surprisingly the scientists found no association between a mother's vitamin D intake during the first and second trimester of her pregnancy and the children's weight and height at either age 5 or 9.
However a factor that clearly supported a child's growth and muscle strength was their own absorption of sufficient doses of vitamin D.
Vitamin D synthesis in the body relies on the skin's exposure to sunlight so the authors also looked at the amount of time children aged 5 spent playing outdoors during the summer months. They found that those spending more than 3 hours outdoors during weekends was related to increased height at age 5.
Vitamin D intake positively associated with offspring's height and weight at 5 years old
The authors concluded:
'Paternal vitamin D intake was positively and prospectively associated with offspring's height and weight at 5 years old, independent of maternal characteristics, meriting further investigation of familial dietary pathways.
''One reason this may occur is that father's nutrition status may somehow influence the health, quality and function of their germ cells, which are involved in reproduction,' they added.'Thus, maternal nutrition may not be the only key factor in offspring's growth development and health'.