Vitamin D and Schizophrenia

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The newest newsletter of the Vitamin D Council addresses the issue of Vitamin D and Schizophrenia is depth, and it appears that since Schizophrenia is a disease that takes a long time to develop (sometimes 25 years), prenatal maternal environmental factors play an important role in the development of Schizophrenia.

Researchers at Harvard (Kinney, Huang, et. al.) released a paper looking at the role of environmental factors in Schizophrenia. They looked at three environmental factors that may trigger Schizophrenia

– Poor prenatal care

– Low Omega-3 fat consumption (i.e. not enough fatty acids from fish)

– Prenatal exposure to infections, esp. influenza

Here are the key points that Dr. Cannell of the Vitamin D Council points out, which show that maternal Vitamin D deficiency may cause Schizophrenia later in life:

First, the highest prevalence of Schizophrenia is in Canada, near the Arctic circle, while the lowest prevalence is near the Equator. While not proving that Vitamin D deficiency causes Schizophrenia, it certainly starts the investigation!

Second, in the analysis, prenatal care did not have an effect on the prevalence of Schizophrenia around the equator; in other words, if your mother and you had bad prenatal care, you still didn’t get Schizophrenia later in life, if you lived around the equator. However, in extreme latitudes, individuals whose mothers received poor prenatal care were more likely to have Schizophrenia.

Third, at the equator, fish consumption did not affect Schizophrenia prevalence, but it did affect prevalence for the subjects studied farther away from Equator. Basically, the connection from this is that it wasn’t the Omega-3 fats from fish that made the difference, but the Vitamin D in the fish (although Omega-3 fats are certainly necessary).

Fourth, it is known that dark-skinned individuals have higher rates of Schizophrenia. However, this only holds true in dark-skinned individuals in latitudes far from the equator, and not near the equator (where even people of very dark skin make plenty of Vitamin D).

All of these factors suggest that maternal exposure to sunlight (or Vitamin D consumption) is, according to Cannell, not just a cause of Schizophrenia, but the cause.

Food for thought.