According to a Finnish study, early childhood intake of a higher than recommended dose of vitamin D3 can reduce psychiatric symptoms later in childhood. Children given triple the standard dose of vitamin D had fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and withdrawal behavior than those given the standard dose. The study warns that more research is needed to confirm these findings.
It is estimated that one in eight children suffers from a mental health disorder. Several predictors of children’s mental problems have been identified, but many remain unexplored. Previous research suggests that low levels of vitamin D in early childhood may be a factor increasing the risk of mental health problems later in 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 daily vitamin D3 supplementation above the recommended dose in early childhood reduces the risk of psychiatric symptoms at school age.
The study is part of Vitamin D intervention in infants (VIDI) clinical trial, which studies how early intervention of vitamin D3 affects the growth and development of children. In the research, the children were randomized into two groups, one receiving the standard daily dose of 10 micrograms and the other triple the amount – 30 mcg – of vitamin D. The children received the daily supplementation of two weeks to two years.
The children were followed and the last monitoring point occurred when they were 6 to 8 years old. In the final follow-up phase, the parents of 346 children assessed their child’s psychiatric symptoms using a questionnaire.
The study found that daily vitamin D3 supplementation above the standard dose reduced the risk of internalizing problems at school age. In other words, children who received the higher dose had less depressed mood, anxiety, and withdrawal behavior than children who received the standard dose.
Psychiatric symptoms reported by parents
According to the research results, parents reported clinically significant internalizing problems in 11.8% of children who received the standard daily vitamin D supplement dose of 10 mcg until age two. Of the children who received the triple vitamin D supplement, 5.6% reported similar problems.
“Our results suggest that a higher dose of vitamin D3 supplementation in the first years of life may reduce the risk of internalizing psychiatric symptoms in late preschool and early school years,” says Samuel Sandboge, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tampere.
“The findings and their potential implications are interesting, but further research is needed to confirm the findings. In interpreting the results, it should be noted, among other things, that we only studied psychiatric symptoms as reported by the parents. Additionally, study participants were children of Nordic ancestry living in Finland who had good levels of vitamin D,” Sandboge points out.
The researchers did not detect differences in externalizing problems, such as aggressive behavior and breaking rules. Additionally, no differences in the overall extent of psychiatric symptoms were found in children.
The study was carried out in collaboration with researchers from the University of Tampere, University Hospital of Helsinki, University of Helsinki and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL ). The University of Tampere contribution was made in the research group of Kati Heinonen, associate professor of developmental psychology at the Faculty of Social Sciences. Samuel Sandboge is a physician specializing in general medicine and rheumatology and a medical doctor.
The results of the study were published in the scientific journal