Researchers from the University of Michigan say that their latest study suggests a link between vitamin D deficiency and behavioral problems. According to their study of schoolchildren, younger kids with low levels of the vitamin were nearly twice as likely to exhibit behavioral problems like aggression as they reached adolescence. The results of the study have been published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Eduardo Villamor, professor of epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health and senior author of the study, led a team that recruited 3,202 schoolchildren aged 5-12 years from Bogotá, Colombia for the study. The children were chosen through a random selection from primary public schools in 2006. Researchers took blood samples, measured the children’s weight and height, and obtained information about the children’s daily habits, socioeconomic status, and their household’s food insecurity, among other things.
Six years later, when the children were 11-18 years old, a random group of one-third of the participants were given in-person follow-up interviews. Questionnaires were administered to the children, and their parents, assessing the children’s behavior. The vitamin D analyses included 273 of those participants.
The researchers found that children with blood vitamin D levels suggestive of deficiency in middle childhood were almost twice as likely to develop aggressive and rule breaking behaviors when they reached adolescence. The deficiency was also linked to more symptoms of anxiety and depression. The associations were independent of child, parental, and household characteristics.
The human body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and strengthen bones. The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing bare skin to sunlight. Vitamin D can also be obtained by taking supplements, but there is some debate over whether adequate amounts can be absorbed into the body using this method. The researchers believe their results “indicate the need for additional studies involving neurobehavioral outcomes in other populations where vitamin D deficiency may be a public health problem.”