No-brainer: Vitamin D deficiency linked to an increased risk of schizophrenia and depression
05/29/2019 // Michelle Simmons // Views

The lack of vitamin D in the body does not only compromise bone health, it also affects mental health. According to studies, vitamin D deficiency is linked to schizophrenia and depression.

A developing fetus depends on its mother for nutrition. If the mother suffers from vitamin deficiency, so will her baby. In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark and the University of Queensland in Australia looked at the effects of prenatal vitamin D deficiency on the risk of developing schizophrenia later in life. They measured the vitamin D status of babies born in Denmark from 1981 to 2000 using systematically collected newborn dried blood spots.

The researchers reported that babies born with low levels of vitamin D were 44 percent more likely to develop schizophrenia in early adulthood. Moreover, this deficiency in newborns accounts for almost 8 percent of all schizophrenia cases in Denmark. They hypothesized that pregnant women in Denmark tend to be deficient in vitamin D due to a lack of sun exposure during the winter months. The researchers advised soon-to-be mothers to ensure that they have enough vitamin D to prevent their babies from having a high risk and to help reduce the cases of schizophrenia.

Vitamin D deficiency linked to depression in older adults

Another study examined the effect of vitamin D deficiency on the incidence of depression among the elderly. Researchers from Trinity College Dublin in Ireland studied nearly 4,000 community-dwelling people aged 50 years and above. They measured the participants' vitamin D levels and depression at the beginning of the study and at the second- and fourth-year follow-up.


The researchers found that vitamin D deficiency was associated with a 75 percent increase in the risk of developing depression. The results remained the same even after they considered other factors, such as depressive symptoms, cardiovascular disease, chronic disease burden, and physical activity. These findings suggest that vitamin D deficiency could increase the likelihood of developing depression later in life.

To address this, the researchers recommend improving the vitamin D status of an individual as this could potentially reduce his or her risk of depression. "This could have significant policy and practice implications for government and health services," the researchers noted. Their study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. (Related: Children diagnosed with autism should take vitamin D supplements, say researchers.)

Signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency and how to prevent it

In the past two decades, the number of people with vitamin D deficiency has increased because many spend too much time indoors and have poor nutrition. People with vitamin D levels lower than 12 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) are considered to be vitamin D-deficient. Oftentimes, people don't know that they lack the vitamin because they don't experience symptoms for years. Therefore, it is necessary for people to get tested for vitamin D deficiency to increase their chance of preventing it. Here are some symptoms of vitamin D deficiency to look out for:

  • Brittle bones
  • Muscle weakness
  • Changes in mood
  • Chronic pain
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Exhaustion
  • Reduced endurance
  • Unexplained infertility

To prevent vitamin D deficiency, follow these tips:

  • Go outdoors. A great way of obtaining vitamin D is through sunlight exposure. However, limit your exposure to 10 to 30 minutes per day only because too much of it could harm your skin.
  • Eat foods rich in vitamin D. Vitamin D-rich foods include fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, and tuna. Beef liver and egg yolks also contain high amounts of vitamin D.
  • Take vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is also available in supplement form. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults is 600 international units (IU) and 400 IU for children.

Learn more about the importance of vitamin D by visiting

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