Department of Economics and Business Economics

Developmental exposure to vitamin D deficiency and subsequent risk of schizophrenia

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Over the last half century, a body of convergent evidence has accumulated linking disruption of early brain development with an increased risk of mental disorders, including schizophrenia. The orderly cascade of brain development may be disrupted by exposure to suboptimal concentrations of a range of biological substrates and micronutrients. We hypothesized that those exposed to vitamin D deficiency during early life, have an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia. The hypothesis was based on the link between an increased risk of schizophrenia in (a) those born in winter and spring, when vitamin D deficiency is more prevalent, and (b) the offspring of dark-skinned migrants living in cold climates, who have a markedly increased risk of vitamin D deficiency. In this review, we summarize evidence from analytic epidemiology related to this hypothesis. Two case-control studies based on Danish neonatal dried blood spots have found that neonatal vitamin deficiency is associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia. However, recent genetic analyses have also suggested that common variants linked to schizophrenia may lead to lower vitamin D concentrations (possibly mediated via reduced outdoor activity). We summarize limitations of the current evidence and outline suggestions that can guide future research. Based on currently available data, there is insufficient evidence to support public health recommendations related to this topic. However, we cannot reject the hypothesis that the provision of vitamin D supplementation to pregnant women and/or offspring in groups vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency may subsequently reduce the incidence of schizophrenia in the offspring.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jul 2021

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Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier B.V.

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