According to a Finnish study, taking a higher than recommended dose of vitamin D3 in early childhood can reduce psychiatric symptoms later in life. Children who received three times the standard dose of vitamin D showed fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and withdrawn behavior than children who received the standard dose. The study cautions that more research is needed to confirm these findings.
It is estimated that every eighth child suffers from a mental disorder. Several predictors of mental health problems in children 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 later in life. A recent Finnish study presents new information about the link between vitamin D intake and mental health.
A new study by a team of Finnish researchers has investigated whether a daily vitamin D3 supplement higher than the recommended dose in early childhood reduces the risk of school-age psychiatric symptoms.
The research 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 study, children were randomized into two groups, one receiving the standard daily dose of 10 micrograms and the other three times the amount – 30 µg – of vitamin D. The children received the supplement daily from two weeks to two years of age.
The children were followed up and the last measurement 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 In other words, children who received the higher dose had less parent-reported depressed mood, anxiety, and withdrawn behavior than children who received the standard dose.
Psychiatric symptoms as reported by parents
According to the study results, parents reported clinically significant internalizing problems in 11.8% of children who received the standard dose of vitamin D supplement of 10 µg per day until the age of two years. Of the children who received the triple vitamin D supplement, 5.6% were reported to have similar problems.
“Our results suggest that a higher dose of vitamin D3 supplementation during the first years of life may reduce the risk of internalization of psychiatric symptoms in late preschool and early school age,” said Samuel Sandboge, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Tampere.
“The results and their possible implications are interesting, but further research is needed to confirm the results. In interpreting the results, we should note, among other things, that we only studied psychiatric symptoms as reported by the parents. In addition, the participants in the study were children of Nordic descent who lived in Finland and had good levels of vitamin D,” emphasizes Sandboge.
The researchers found no differences in externalizing problems, such as aggressive behavior and rule-breaking. In addition, no differences were found between the total magnitude of psychiatric symptoms in the 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 contribution of the University of Tampere 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 physician specializing in general medicine and rheumatology and a doctor of medicine.
The results of the research have been published in the scientific journal