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.

The Importance of Vitamin D and Pregnancy

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Preeclampsia. Diabetes. Autism. Schizophrenia. And more. The solution to these problems, affecting both mothers and children, may be Vitamin D. Read on.

The newest newsletter from the Vitamin D Council has been released and it is loaded with research related to Vitamin D and pregnancy. Please allow me to summarize the newsletter’s content (which is free of copyright), but be sure to check out the actual newsletter. All of this is based on actual research. Keep in mind that when I speak of Vitamin D blood levels, I am actually speaking of blood calcidiol, 25(OH)D, levels. Calcidiol is a pre-hormone produced by the liver after Vitamin D is metabolized. Many experts believe this is the only reliable test of blood Vitamin D levels.

Research shows that pregnant women are very vitamin D deficient. In the three studies cited, 95% of pregnant women, yes 95%, did not have optimal levels of Vitamin D in their bloodstream. Pre-natal vitamins, which usually contain only 400 IU of Vitamin D (the body manufactures 5 times this on your average sun exposure), had little effect on raising Vitamin D levels.

So what are the consequences of sub-optimal Vitamin D levels for the pregnant mother? Well, see for yourself:

– One study showed that those with low Vitamin D levels were much more likely to have Caesarian sections. The number of C-sections has dramatically increased since 1970, from 5% of pregnancies then, to 30% today. Guess what? Those women who had optimal Vitamin D levels in this study had C-section rates identical to the 1970 rate: 5%.

– One study demonstrated that low vitamin D blood levels result in a 5-fold increase in the risk of preeclampsia.

– Another study found that those with low vitamin D levels (virtually every pregnant woman) were at a 3-fold risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy

Now, what about children? How does low Vitamin D during pregnancy affect a mother’s child?

– A paper published recently connects low Vitamin D levels during pregnancy with Schizophrenia, on account of inappropriate fetal brain development.

– There is much speculation about Vitamin D and Autism, and the role sunshine and Vitamin D play in its development. I wrote on this previously.

– One study (which is considered racially charged, because it shows some races may have more mentally retarded individuals) suggests that Vitamin D may have a role in preventing mental retardation.

– Women with the lowest Vitamin D levels during pregnancy were much more likely to have their newborns in Intensive Care Units because of Lower Respiratory Tract Infections.

– Low levels of Vitamin D during pregnancy are associated with lower birth weight.

– Cod Liver Oil (a source of Vitamin D) given during pregnancy is associated with a 3-fold decrease in the rate of juvenile diabetes later.

– Vitamin D may prevent idiopathic infant heart failure.

– Researchers have discovered that children with very serious brain tumors (astrocytomas and ependymomas) were more likely to be born in the winter, when Vitamin D levels are low.

– Epileptics are also more likely to be born in the winter.

– Craniotabes (softening of the skull in infants) is likely a Vitamin D deficiency, and not “normal.”

– Cavities are more common in children whose mothers had low Vitamin D levels.

So what are pregnant mothers deficient in Vitamin D to do?

Well, first and foremost, I am not a doctor, and you should consult with a doctor before taking any supplement during pregnancy. I can say that Drs. Scholl and Chen, of the Department of Obstetrics at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, have suggested that pregnant women need 6000 IU of Vitamin D per day. A study I linked to a few months ago, suggested the same thing of lactating women, that they need 6,000 IU per day to have adequate levels. A little sun would easily supply this amount.