Table of Contents
Study: Relationship Between Vitamin D Levels & Neural Development In Children
Date of Content: October 22, 2023
Written by: Avanthika Nityanand
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD
Vitamin D stands apart in the realm of essential nutrients. While it is known for promoting bone health, its influence extends far beyond. This vitamin plays a pivotal role in immune function, brain health, and the proper functioning of our nervous system. Interestingly, our primary source is not just from the foods we consume, like fatty fish or fortified dairy; our bodies produce it when exposed to sunlight.
Since the endogenous, natural synthesis of Vitamin D may not always be sufficient, it will be important to maintain a balanced lifestyle, combining appropriate dietary sources, supplements, and moderate sun exposure. With its vast range of benefits and unique sources, Vitamin D is an indispensable component of a holistic approach to health.
Why Is Vitamin D Important?
Vitamin D is essential for several reasons, primarily due to its role in maintaining the health of our bones and teeth. It facilitates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which are critical for developing a robust skeletal system. Beyond its well-known benefits for bone health, vitamin D significantly supports the immune, brain, and nervous systems. Moreover, it is pivotal in regulating insulin levels that aid diabetes management. It also supports lung function and cardiovascular health.
Furthermore, there is emerging evidence suggesting that vitamin D might play some role in the regulation of mood and the warding off of depression. Given its wide-ranging effects on various body systems, maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is crucial for overall health and well-being.
A recent follow-up study on a randomized clinical trial examined the impact of vitamin D supplementation by pregnant women on the neurodevelopment of their children.
Let us look at the highlights of the study.
Research has indicated a potential role of Vitamin D (often referred to as VitD) in children’s neurodevelopment. The primary indicator of VitD status in the body is the blood concentration of 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25(OH)D).
NOTE: Does 25-hydroxy-vitamin D look intimidating? Think nothing of it but a way for doctors to tell if your body has healthy VitD levels. Similar to how blood glucose level is a measure of diabetes risk. We will refer to it as 25(OH)D for the rest of the article.
While some studies suggest that higher concentrations of 25(OH)D may lead to better neurodevelopmental outcomes, there isn’t a unanimous consensus.
The study reviewed here analyzed the relationship between 25(OH)D levels and the neurodevelopmental outcomes in children aged 3 to 5.
- Pregnant women participating in the study were divided into three groups. Each group received different daily doses of VitD3: 400 IU (standard dose), 2000 IU, or 4000 IU.
- The children born to these women were assessed using the Brigance Screen test when they were 3–5 years old.
- The Brigance Screen test was used to assess three main areas of neurodevelopment; language, motor, and academic.
- The 25(OH)D concentration was measured at birth and when the children were 3–5 years old.
- The study also examined the relationship between Brigance scores and the genotype of vitamin D binding protein (VDBP), which transports vitamin D in the bloodstream.
Association with 25(OH)D Levels
Higher levels of 25(OH)D during the testing period correlated with better overall performance in neurodevelopmental tests, as indicated by the Brigance quotient.
Effect of Maternal Vitamin D Dosage
Children whose mothers were given 2000 IU/day of VitD3 during pregnancy scored better in the language component of the Brigance assessment compared to those whose mothers received the standard dose of 400 IU/day. The results with 4000 IU/day were inconclusive.
Impact of VDBP Genotype
The VDBP or GC gene encodes the vitamin D binding protein. VDBP is a multifunctional protein found in the plasma, cerebrospinal fluid, and on the surface of many cell types. It binds to vitamin D and transports it to various target tissues.
This gene’s most commonly studied polymorphisms are SNPs that lead to differences in the protein structure. In this study, the allelic variations in two SNPs were referred to as GC1F, GC1S, and GC2 es, and the different combinations of the alleles resulted in various genotypes.
According to this study,
- Children with GC1F-1s or GC1F-2 genotypes displayed significantly better scores in the academic component of the Brigance test. However, they scored lower in the language component than children with the GC1F/GC1F genotype.
- Also, children with the GC1S/GC1S, GC1S/GC2, or GC2/GC2 scored lower in the language component than those with the GC1F/GC1F genotype.
The findings of this study propose that:
- Higher levels of 25(OH)D early in life might benefit neurodevelopment.
- Increased doses of vitamin D supplementation for pregnant mothers might enhance neurodevelopmental outcomes for their children.
- The Vitamin D Binding Protein (VDBP) genotype is associated with neurodevelopment and may influence different areas of neurodevelopment.
Read about the complete study here.
*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.
Our reports and suggestions do not diagnose or treat any health conditions or provide any medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results.