Milk Fights off Teenage Mental Health

Vitamin D deficiency seen with mental illness in adolescents

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It’s summertime, and for some teens that means soaking up the sun. But could getting the right amounts of vitamin D affect more than just skin?

A new study showed that vitamin D deficiency could be connected to mental health disorders in adolescents.

"Talk to your doctor about how to get the right balance of nutrients."

Researchers led by Barbara Gracious, MD, collected Vitamin D samples from 75 females and 29 males in between the ages of 12 to 18. The subjects had all been admitted to the Strong Behavioral Health Child and Adolescent Acute Inpatient Service or Partial Hospitalization Service at the University of Rochester.

The vitamin D samples were then correlated with the patients' medical records, which included diagnoses, self-reports and accounts on symptoms from family members.

The mental health problems experienced by the subjects were, in order of the greatest number of occurrences to the smallest, bipolar disorder, depression, not-otherwise specified mood disorder, psychotic disorder, anxiety disorder and one sufferer of ADHD.

Researchers focused mostly on the psychotic symptoms of patients (defined by the authors as delusions, paranoia or hallucinations) and again measured these based on the subjects’ medical records.

When separating the subjects into groups based on their levels of Vitamin D (classified as  normal, insufficient and deficient), they found that 33.7 percent of these mentally ill adolescent subjects had severely deficient levels of vitamin D and an additional 38.4 percent had levels considered insufficient.

The authors report that “of those with vitamin D deficiency, 40 percent had psychotic features compared to only 16 percent of the sample who were not vitamin D deficient.”  The subjects with deficient vitamin D levels were three and a half times more likely to have displayed psychotic symptoms, while 79 percent of the subjects with normal levels did not display these features.

“There has been a longtime interest in the interplay among vitamins and many conditions of physical, mental and behavioral health,” Robert Pressman, PhD and Director of Research for the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology, told dailyRx. “Vitamin D, which has hormone-like properties, has from time to time been considered a possible mediator of mental illness.”

This is a small study with a limited population of subjects. Wider research with a larger base needs to be done in order to confirm these results.

According to Dr. Pressman, “At present, we do not know if vitamin D mediates mental illness, vice versa, or if both are mediated by a third factor, e.g., getting out in the sun or eating well—behavior variables that might pre-date onset, or post-date recovery."

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 26, 2012
Last Updated:
June 26, 2012