Children are more likely to be obese if their mothers lacked vitamin D during pregnancy, British scientists claimed.

University of Southampton Researchers studied nearly 1,000 pregnant women and found that those with low levels of vitamin D gave birth to children who had more body fat at the age of six than youngsters whose mothers were not deficient in vitamin D during pregnancy.

Dr. Sian Robinson, lead researcher, said, "In the context of current concerns about low vitamin D status in young women, and increasing rates of childhood obesity in the UK, we need to understand more about the long-term health consequences for children who are born to mothers who have low vitamin D status."

The findings followed recent studies linking low vitamin D levels with high body fat in children and adults, and suggested the connection may begin in the womb, the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"An interpretation of our data is that there could be programmed effects on the fetus arising from a lack of maternal vitamin D that remain with the baby and predispose him or her to gain excess body fat in later childhood," Robinson added.

Vitamin D levels are enhanced by exposure to sunlight and can be increased by eating foods such as milk, egg yolks, salmon and swordfish.

Last year cereal firm Kellogg's announced that it would be adding vitamin D to all its kids' products in the UK to combat an increase in rickets among British children.