Newborn babies with low levels of vitamin D have a far higher risk of developing schizophrenia later in life, researchers have found.
Scientists from the Queensland Brain Institute used tiny samples of blood taken as part of routine screening from newborn babies in Denmark. They then compared vitamin D concentrations in babies who later developed schizophrenia with healthy controls. The study confirmed those with low vitamin D had a twofold increased risk of developing the disorder.
Vitamin D, or the 'sunshine hormone', is mostly from sunlight absorbed through the skin, although oily fish is another rich source. It has long been known that it is important for healthy bones, but the Queensland team has discovered that it is also important for healthy brain growth. Low vitamin D is common in many countries. Researchers have previously found that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be born in winter.
'While we need to replicate these findings, the study opens up the possibility that improving vitamin D levels in pregnant women and newborn babies could reduce the risk of later schizophrenia,' investigator Professor John McGrath said.