Vitamin D supplementation can reduce childhood depression, anxiety and psychiatric symptoms


A study by Finnish researchers suggests that a higher-than-recommended daily dose of vitamin D3 supplementation during the first few years of life may reduce the risk of psychiatric symptoms in later childhood.

Taking more than the recommended dose of vitamin D3 in early childhood may reduce psychiatric symptoms in later childhood, according to a Finnish study. Children who received three times the standard dose of vitamin D showed fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and withdrawn behavior than those given the standard dose. The study cautions that more research is needed to confirm these findings.

It is estimated that one in eight children suffer from a mental disorder. Several predictors of children\’s mental problems have been identified, but much remains unexplored. Previous research suggests that low vitamin D levels in early childhood may be a factor that increases the risk of mental health problems in later life. A recent Finnish study presents new insights into the association between vitamin D intake and mental health.

A new study by a team of Finnish researchers investigated whether a daily vitamin D3 supplement higher than the recommended dose in early childhood reduces the risk of psychiatric symptoms in school age.

The study is part of the Vitamin D intervention in infants (VIDI) clinical trial, investigating how early vitamin D3 intervention affects children\’s growth and development. In the research, children were randomized into two groups, one receiving the standard daily dose of 10 micrograms and the other receiving triple the amount of 30 g of vitamin D. The children received the daily supplement for two weeks to two years of age.

The children were followed up and the last monitoring point occurred when they were 6 to 8 years old. In the last follow-up phase, the parents of 346 children rated their child\’s psychiatric symptoms using a questionnaire.

The study found that daily vitamin D3 supplementation above the standard dose reduced the risk of school-age internalizing problems. In other words, children who received the higher dose had less parent-reported depressed mood, anxiety, and withdrawn behavior than children who received the standard dose.

Psychiatric symptoms reported by parents

According to the research findings, parents reported clinically significant internalizing problems in 11.8% of children who had received the standard 10 g daily vitamin D supplement dose up to the age of two years. Of the children who received the triple vitamin D supplement, 5.6% had similar problems.

Our findings suggest that a higher dose of vitamin D3 supplementation during the first few years of life may reduce the risk of internalizing psychiatric symptoms in late preschool and early school age, says Samuel Sandboge, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tampere.

The findings and their potential implications are interesting, but more research is needed to confirm the findings. In interpreting the results, we should note, among other things, that we investigated psychiatric symptoms only as reported by parents. Additionally, the study participants were children of Nordic descent living in Finland who had good levels of vitamin D, Sandboge points out.

The researchers found no differences in externalizing problems, such as aggressive behavior and rule breaking. Furthermore, no differences in the overall extent of psychiatric symptoms were found in children.

The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from Tampere University, Helsinki University Hospital, the University of Helsinki and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). The Tampere University contribution was carried out in the research group of Kati Heinonen, associate professor of developmental psychology at the Faculty of Social Sciences. Samuel Sandboge is a General Practitioner and Rheumatology Practitioner and Doctor of Medicine.

The results of the study were published in the scientific journal JAMA Network Open

JAMA Network Open is a monthly, open-access medical journal focused on all areas of the biomedical sciences. It was launched in 2018, with Fred Rivara serving as its founding editor-in-chief. The journal is published by the American Medical Association.

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Reference: Effect of Vitamin D3 Supplementation in the First 2 Years of Life on Psychiatric Symptoms at Ages 6 to 8 Years by Samuel Sandboge, MD, PhD; Katri Rikknen, PhD; Marius Lahti-Pulkkinen, PhD; Helena Hauta-alus, PhD; Elisa Holmlund-Suila, MD, PhD; Polina Girchenko, PhD; Eero Kajantie, MD, PhD; Outi Mkitie, MD, PhD; Sture Andersson, MD, PhD and Kati Heinonen, PhD, 19 May 2023, JAMA Network Open.
DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.14319

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