Is maternal vitamin D deficiency responsible for development of schizophrenia?

Too much vitamin D from supplements may lead to vitamin D toxicity.

Previous research had linked maternal vitamin D deficiency with brain development disorders, such as schizophrenia. A new study explains the functional changes taking place in the brain.

Vitamin D is essential for building and maintaining bones and also supports the nervous system, musculoskeletal system and immune system. Deficiency of this vitamin is associated with loss of bone density, osteoporosis, broken bones, rickets and many other health complications. Now, neuroscientists at The University of Queensland have indicated a link between Vitamin D deficiency and development of schizophrenia. In a new study, they have shown that vitamin D deficiency alters developing neurons in the brain’s dopamine circuit. This may lead to the dopamine dysfunction seen in adults with schizophrenia, they suggested.

The study is built on previous research that linked maternal vitamin D deficiency and brain development disorders, such as schizophrenia. Professor Darryl Eyles and his team at the Queensland Brain Institute wanted to understand the functional changes taking place in the brain.

What causes Schizophrenia is not known clearly but the disorder is associated with changes in the way the brain uses dopamine, the neurotransmitter that acts as a chemical messenger between nerve cells in the brain and the rest of the body. It is known as the brain’s ‘reward molecule’.

The neuroscientist team found that maternal vitamin D deficiency affects the early development and later structural differentiation of dopaminergic neurons.

Vitamin D deficiency: Signs and symptoms you should know

Vitamin D deficiency is estimated to affect about 1 billion people worldwide. In adults, vitamin D deficiency doesn’t always show signs and symptoms. Whew symptoms appear, one may experience fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness, muscle aches or muscle cramps, mood changes, like depression.

Severe vitamin D deficiency in children can cause rickets, which can cause muscle weakness, bone pain and deformities in joints. However, rickets are very rare.

Causes and prevention of vitamin D deficiency

If you have vitamin D deficiency, it may be mainly because you’re not getting enough vitamin D in your diet and/or through sunlight. It can also happen if your body isn’t absorbing or using vitamin D properly.

Vitamin D deficiency can also result from certain medical conditions, weight loss-surgeries and as side effects of certain medications.

Obesity, kidney disease, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, are some medical conditions that can cause vitamin D deficiency. Weight loss-surgeries such as gastric bypass surgery can also make it difficult for your body to absorb enough Vitamin D.

Taking certain medications such as laxatives, steroids (such as prednisone), cholesterol-lowering drugs (such as cholestyramine and colestipol), seizure-preventing drugs (such as phenobarbital and phenytoin), rifampin (a tuberculosis drug) or orlistat (a weight-loss drug) can also lower your vitamin d levels.

Anyone can have vitamin D deficiency, but it is more common in people with darker skin (due to higher skin melanin content) and older people.

For treatment and prevention for vitamin D deficiency, it is important that you eat more foods containing vitamin D and get more sunlight. Your healthcare provider may recommend taking vitamin D supplements, if needed and how much to take. Too much vitamin D from supplements may lead to vitamin D toxicity, which can further lead to hypercalcemia. However, this happens rarely.

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