Nutrition

Schizophrenia in Children Could be Caused by Lack of Vitamin D Intake During Pregnancy

After about 20 years, researchers have established a concrete link between schizophrenia in adult life and lack of Vitamin D during pregnancy. For years, the University of Queensland, Australia and Aarhus University, Denmark have been trying to find a link between the two but there wasn’t enough evidence available.

In the past, it was considered that malnutrition in childhood could lead to schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a brain-related disorder that can alter the way a person thinks, perceives and behaves. While most cases of schizophrenia go undetected there are a number of behavioral aspects that need to be taken into account. These include, but are not restricted to, hallucinations, reduced speaking, trouble in focusing and delusions.

The research was carried out by a team led by Dr. John McGrath. Mr. McGrath is a Professor and lead researcher at the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Queensland, Australia. The research included analyzing blood samples of newborns born between 1981 and 2000 who went on to develop schizophrenia.

The professor said, “Schizophrenia is a group of poorly understood brain disorders characterized by symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and cognitive impairment.”

The research was focused on the interconnection between vitamin D and schizophrenia. The blood samples of people who had developed schizophrenia were taken for analysis.

The results from the samples were arranged according to the concentration of Vitamin D. Professor McGrath said, “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 run on 2602 individuals through 2 decades. The samples were compared to those of the ones who had not developed the disease.

Schizophrenia is poorly understood. Before this research could reach a conclusive result, it was thought that the disease could be related to people born in winters. The possibilities were narrowed down with the hypothesis that winters meant low exposure to sunlight.

Mr. McGarth added, “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. 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.”

The professor, in 2016, led another research in Denmark that found interconnections between prenatal vitamin D deficiency and autism.

Australia gets more sunshine than Denmark but the sun-avoiding behavior and the lifestyle of the pregnant women in Australia meant that the fetus suffers lack of vitamin D during its development.

John suggested that as it is now established that vitamin D can help predict if an individual will have schizophrenia later in his life, the time was ripe to start clinic trials of pregnant women to get a detailed analysis of treatment. He said, “ The next step is to conduct randomized clinical trials of vitamin D supplements in pregnant women who are vitamin D deficient, in order to examine the impact on child brain development and risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.”

Professor John’s team is hopeful that the administration of Vitamin D supplements can help cure these diseases in the babies. If their claim is proved, measures should be taken to ensure that all pregnant women get ample amount of nutrients and have access to dietary supplements if their diet is not fulfilling the requirements.

Emma Colleen

Emma’s professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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