Lack of Vitamin D in Babies Linked to Schizophrenia
Lack of vitamin D in babies is linked to schizophrenia according to new findings by the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI). Researchers found that babies born with insufficient levels of vitamin D are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia later in life. This could mean that there is a possibility of lowering schizophrenia risk by increasing prenatal intake of the nutrient.
Improving Vitamin D may reduce schizophrenia risk.
“While we need to replicate these findings, the study opens up the possibility that improving vitamin D levels in pregnant women and newborn babies could reduce the risk of later schizophrenia,” QBI Professor John McGrath said.
Long coined the “sunshine hormone,” vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to a host of medical issues including many forms of cancer, high blood pressure, depression, and immune system disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
McGrath, a psychiatrist who is the director of the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, noted that research has suggested for some time that there is also a link between sunlight, vitamin D absorption and brain development.
Professor John McGrath from the Queensland Brain Institute says there has been suggestions for some time that there may be a link between sunlight, vitamin D and brain development. He says it is increasingly clear children with low vitamin D levels are more likely to develop schizophrenia.
"For the babies who had very low vitamin D, their risk was about twice as high as those babies who had optimal vitamin D," says McGrath.
"But the amazing thing was that the study that was based in Denmark, where low vitamin D is quite common, we found that if vitamin D is linked to schizophrenia our statistics suggest that it could explain about 40% of all schizophrenias.” He said. "That's a much bigger effect than we're used to seeing in schizophrenia research."
McGrath states, "Because the treatment and the outcome can be separated by about 20, 30 years, we need to treat pregnant women and then wait for their offspring to develop schizophrenia," he says. "It will be a very challenging study to do."McGrath adds that it could be decades before scientists know for sure. "But medical research tends to move at a steady pace. I think the other thing is that there are many other studies suggesting that vitamin D is good for baby's bone health," he says.
"So it may well be that recommendations will be made to women to increase their vitamin D status for more obvious outcomes, like baby's rickets for example. If that happened then it may well be that schizophrenia would start to fall in decades to come."
Schizophrenia is a poorly understood and stigmatized. It is a lifelong brain disorder that currently affects about 1 percent of the world’s population. Those afflicted may hear voices, see things that aren’t there or believe that others are reading or controlling their minds. Approximately 2 million people in the U.S. are affected. The disease occurs in both genders and in all races, with the highest occurrence in women.
Because of the high rate, scientists are excited that they may have discovered that lack of vitamin D in babies is linked to schizophrenia.