Neonatal vitamin D status and risk of schizophrenia: a study using Danish dried bloods spots (2007–2009)

There is increasing evidence that low levels of vitamin D (i.e. the 'sunshine hormone') during early development can alter brain development. In particular, it has been proposed that low vitamin D during development (e.g. prenatal and in early life), increases the risk of developing schizophrenia during adulthood. A previous study based on stored third trimester blood samples from US women suggested that very low levels of maternal vitamin D may be associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia in the offspring. We have the opportunity to explore this hypothesis using a large, well-described Danish 'bio-bank'. Since 1981, blood samples from newborn babies have been kept by a central agency in Denmark. In collaboration with senior Danish medical researchers, 900 blood samples of babies who have subsequently developed schizophrenia and 1800 from matched healthy individuals have been identified. We will measure vitamin D levels in these blood samples. We predict that babies with low levels of vitamin D will have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. If low prenatal vitamin D does increase the risk of schizophrenia, this finding will have important implications from a public health perspective. Just as the number of infants affected by spina bifida has been reduced by adding folate supplements to foods, optimizing maternal vitamin D levels may lead to a reduction in the incidence of schizophrenia.
Grant type:
NHMRC Project Grant
Funded by:
National Health and Medical Research Council