While a number of studies have shown maternal vitamin D intake has an important role in in both musculoskeletal and overall health of children, any potential link between a father's vitamin D status during pre-conception and development of their offspring has received much less attention.
However, new longitudinal data from Ireland has suggested that paternal vitamin D intake before conception is significantly associated with his child's height and weight at five years old.
Led by Dr Cilia Mejia Lancheros and colleagues at University College Dublin, the team analysed data from father-child pairs to assess how vitamin D intake (measured by baseline food frequency questionnaires) impacted children's height and weight measurements at age five and nine.
"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,” concluded the team – who presented the data at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO).
Lancheros and colleagues analysed data from the Lifeways Cross-Generation Cohort Study, in which information on paternal vitamin D intake from baseline food frequency questionnaires and children's height and weight measurements were available for 213 and 148 father-child pairs when children were aged 5 and 9 years respectively.
Associations were calculated using a model adjusted for several possible confounders including: paternal age, energy intake height, weight, and being the biological father; maternal age, vitamin D and energy intake height, and weight; and child's sex, age, vitamin D and energy intake, and summer outdoor physical activity aged five.
In these adjusted models, paternal vitamin D was statistically associated with offspring's height and weight at five years old. However, the association was reduced and no longer statistically significant, when offspring reached nine years old.
“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,” the team added. “Thus, maternal nutrition may not be the only key factor in offspring's growth development and health."