Ann Arbor, Michigan—Children who are vitamin D deficient during their elementary school years are more likely to develop externalizing behavior problems—such as aggressiveness and rule-breaking behaviors—than children with higher levels of vitamin D, according to new research from the University of Michigan.
Low levels of the protein that transports vitamin D in blood were linked to more aggressive behavior and anxious/depressed symptoms, too, according to a press release regarding the study.
In 2006, Eduardo Villamor, professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and a team of researchers recruited 3,202 children aged 5-12 years old into a cohort study in Bogotá, Columbia, through a random selection from primary public schools. The investigators obtained information on the children’s daily habits, maternal education level, weight and height, food insecurity, and socioeconomic status. Researchers also took blood samples.
Six years later, the investigators conducted follow-up interviews with one-third of the participants. They performed the vitamin D analyses on 273 of these participants.
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Villamor, lead author of the study, said in the release: “Children who have vitamin D deficiency during their elementary school years appear to have higher scores on tests that measure behavior problems when they reach adolescence.” He added that vitamin D deficiency has been associated with other mental health problems in adulthood, but few studies have taken place in adolescence.
The authors acknowledged that their study had several limitations, including a lack of baseline behavioral measures, but also noted that their results indicate a need for additional studies involving neurobehavioral outcomes and vitamin D deficiency.