London: A greater placental size during pregnancy could lead to larger bones in the children, a new study has found. Researchers at University of Southampton in the UK studied 518 children in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) who underwent bone scans at nine, 15 and 17 years of age.
Measurements such as thickness, volume and weight, were also taken from the mothers' placenta. The group, working with colleagues at the University of Bristol, found that greater placental size at birth was associated with larger bones at each age in childhood. The study found that the relationship between the
placenta and offspring bone remained robust even after adjusting for factors such as the child's height and weight and pubertal status.
The research offers new insights into earlier observations linking maternal factors in pregnancy with offspring bone health. Larger bones in early life are likely to lead to larger, stronger bones in older adulthood, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis and broken bones in later life.
However, more research is needed to understand the more detailed mechanisms underlying associations between placenta size/function and offspring bone mass, researchers said. "There are many factors which are likely to influence placental size and function, and importantly, we don't know as yet whether a larger placenta actually causes the greater offspring bone mass," said Nicholas Harvey, Professor of Rheumatology and Clinical Epidemiology, who led the research.
"These findings really help us to understand the possible mechanisms whereby factors such as maternal diet, smoking, physical activity and vitamin D status may influence offspring bone development," said Harvey. "This work builds on our previous findings from the Southampton Women's Survey, and demonstrates that positive associations between placental size and offspring bone size
are maintained even through puberty," he said.
The study was published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research....