Nora Hendricks


Spring 2019

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Susan Murray


College of Arts and Sciences


In the United States and in many other developed countries, obesity is becoming an increasingly widespread problem due to several factors including poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyles. Previous studies have shown obese people to have less circulating vitamin D than lean people and this study aimed to determine whether obese mothers pass less vitamin D through their placenta to their offspring than lean mothers do and whether vitamin D deficiency resulting in fewer vitamin D receptors in the placenta can be reversed by treatment of placental cells with the active and inactive forms of vitamin D. The data collected from this study show that placentas from obese mothers have less vitamin D receptors than placentas from lean mothers and that placental cells treated with the active form of vitamin D show increased expression of vitamin D receptors. Preliminary tests of mitochondrial respiration have found that placental cells from an obese mother respond more dramatically in terms of oxygen consumption rate to treatment with both the active and inactive forms of vitamin D than placental cells from a lean mother do. Vitamin D plays an important role in the placenta, and future studies should be conducted to determine the daily dosage of vitamin D necessary to reverse vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy.


Obesity; Vitamin D in human nutrition; Pregnancy

Publication Information

BIO 499H Senior Honors Project

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Student Project

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Biology Commons