Food and Behaviour Research

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Prevalence and predictors of vitamin D deficiency based on maternal mid-gestation and neonatal cord bloods: The Generation R Study

Vinkhuyzen AA, Eyles DW, Burne TH, Blanken LM, Kruithof CJ, Verhulst F, Jaddoe VW, Tiemeier H, McGrath JJ (2016) J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol.  S0960-0760(15)30078-9. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here.


BACKGROUND: Population-based studies have confirmed that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is substantial in many societies, and is of particular concern in pregnant women. Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is associated with a wide range of adverse maternal and offspring health outcomes. To date, studies of vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy have focused on measurements at one or two time points in isolation. We examined both midgestation and cord blood 25 hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) concentration and explored the prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in a large ethnically diverse cohort of pregnant women and their infants in the Netherlands.

METHODS: This study was embedded in the Generation R Study, a population-based prospective cohort from fetal life onwards in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Using a highly sensitive tandem mass spectroscopy-based assay, we measured 25OHD in 7256 midgestation samples (mean gestation 20.6 weeks) and 5023 neonatal cord blood samples (mean gestation 40.0 weeks). Using a conservative threshold of less than 25nmol/L to define vitamin D deficiency, we examined the prevalence and socio-demographic correlates of vitamin D deficiency in mothers and infants. We also derived a measure of vitamin D deficiency based on the two time points in order to explore persistent vitamin D deficiency in mother-infant pairs.

RESULTS: The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency at midgestation was 26%, while in neonates 46% were deficient. 21% of the mother-infant pairs had persistent vitamin D deficiency (i.e., deficient in maternal and cord samples) and an additional 29% were vitamin D deficient in one of the two samples only. Persistent vitamin D deficiency was strongly associated with non-European ancestry and spring birth.

CONCLUSIONS: A sizeable proportion of women and their neonatal offspring in the Generation R cohort were vitamin D deficient. In light of the large body of evidence linking vitamin D deficiency with adverse health outcomes for pregnant women and their offspring, our findings indicate a large unmet need in this population. In particular, women and infants from non-European ethnic background are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


There is already abundant evidence that low maternal Vitamin D status in pregnancy can have permanently damaging effects on physical and mental health in the resulting children.

This large-scale, population-based study involved assessing Vitamin D not only in mothers at mid-pregnancy, but also in their children at birth. Results showed that deficiencies in Vitamin D affected over one in four women, and almost half of all newborn infants in this cohort from the Netherlands. As is typically found, Vitamin D deficiencies were particularly prevalent in women and children with non-European ancestry, and for spring births.

The findings add to the already compelling case for effective public health action to improve Vitamin D status - especially in high-risk groups - as a matter of urgency.

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