Most studies have focused on the potential effects of vitamin D status in pregnancy on behavior problems of the offspring.  According to some studies, the potential effects of early pregnancy vitamin D status on behavior could alter brain development, which may later manifest as behavior problems.  Testing a novel hypothesis that vitamin D status in middle-aged children is related to behavior problems in adolescence, researchers examined the associations of vitamin D status in middle childhood with externalizing and internalizing behavior problems in adolescence.

The study published in The Journal of Nutrition consisted of 273 schoolchildren from Bogotá, Colombia. Externalizing and internalizing behavior problems were assessed after a median 6-y follow-up by parental report and self-report.  Blood levels of vitamin D were measured along with vitamin D binding protein, the primary transporter of vitamin D to target tissues. Thus, the researchers postulate that vitamin D binding protein may be associated with behavior problems through its potential role as a regulator of vitamin D.  

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In this longitudinal study of schoolchildren, vitamin D deficiency in middle childhood was associated with higher parent-reported externalizing problems scores such as higher aggressive and rule-breaking behaviors and internalizing problems scores such as anxiety disorders in adolescence.  Low vitamin D binding protein concentration was also related to higher self-reported aggressive behavior and anxious/depressed symptoms.

According to senior author Eduardo Villamor (University of Michigan) and colleagues, “Vitamin D deficiency and vitamin D binding protein are related to behavior externalizing and internalizing problems in adolescence. Additional studies involving other neurobehavioral outcomes are warranted.”

Reference Robinson SL, Marín C, Oliveros H, Mora-Plazas M, Lozoff B, Villamor E. Vitamin D deficiency in middle childhood is related to behavior problems in adolescence. The Journal of Nutrition, nxz185, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxz185.

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