Researchers have discovered a link between neonatal vitamin D deficiency and schizophrenia.
The research, undertaken by a collaborative team of Australian and Danish scientist could mean early treatment of Vitamin D deficiency will reduce the number of incidents of adulthood schizophrenia.
Pregnant women advised getting adequate vitamin D
“Schizophrenia is a group of poorly understood brain disorders characterized by symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and cognitive impairment,” Professor John McGrath from QBI and Aarhus University commented.
“As the developing fetus is totally reliant on the mother’s vitamin D stores, our findings suggest that ensuring pregnant women have adequate levels of vitamin D may result in the prevention of some schizophrenia cases, in a manner comparable to the role folate supplementation has played in the prevention of spina bifida.”
The study was based on the evidence that there were more schizophrenic people born in winter and spring.
The research was conducted by analyzing the vitamin D concentration in blood samples taken from Danish newborns between 1981 and 2000 who went on to develop schizophrenia as young adults.
8 percent of schizophrenia cases in Denmark related to vitamin D deficiency
This data was compared to blood samples from people who matched by sex and date of birth who had not developed schizophrenia.
Professor McGrath estimates that about 8 percent of schizophrenia cases in Denmark could be accounted for being caused by neonatal vitamin D deficiency.
“Much of the attention in schizophrenia research has been focused on modifiable factors early in life with the goal of reducing the burden of this disease,” he said.
“Previous research identified an increased risk of schizophrenia associated with being born in winter or spring and living in a high-latitude country, such as Denmark."
Australians at risk despite high sunlight
“We hypothesized that low vitamin D levels in pregnant women due to a lack of sun exposure during winter months might underlie this risk, and investigated the association between vitamin D deficiency and risk of schizophrenia.”
While the research has impacts on women living in places with low sunlight, the Australian researchers suggest that vitamin D deficiency is still possible in Australia due to the attention paid to SunSmart practices that minimize exposure to sunlight.
The study will continue to look at how Vitamin D impacts brain development. The research was published in Scientific Reports.