MedWire News: Adolescents with acute mental illness are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency than healthy individuals, and such deficiency is linked to an increase in the risk for psychosis, say US scientists, although the benefits of supplementation remain unclear.
In addition to vitamin D's well-recognised importance in bone health, it plays a central role in brain development and functioning. While low vitamin D levels are associated with depression and schizophrenia in adults, the links to mental health in the pediatric population have not been characterized.
Noting that vitamin D deficiency is a re-emerging epidemic, Barbara Gracious, from The Ohio State University, in Columbus, and colleagues measured serum 25-hydroxy (OH) vitamin D levels in 75 girls and 29 boys aged 12-18 years presenting for acute mental health treatment between 2008 and 2010. Psychotic symptoms were documented on standard admission assessment forms.
The team reports in BMC Psychiatry that 33.7% of participants were vitamin D deficient (<20 ng/ml) and 38.4% were vitamin D insufficient (20-30 ng/ml). This compares with a rate of vitamin D deficiency in the US community adolescent population of just 9.0%.
Individuals with vitamin D deficiency were significantly more likely to have psychotic symptoms than those without, at 40% versus 16%, giving an odds ratio of 3.52.
The results also demonstrated that race was independently associated with both vitamin D deficiency and psychosis among participants who were Asian or biracial, at an odds ratio of 3.81 compared with White individuals. Adjusting for vitamin D levels removed the association between race and psychosis.
The researchers conclude: "Prospective trials of vitamin D supplementation are needed to address targeted mental health symptom domains as well as metabolic health variables in D-deficient severely mentally ill adolescents and adults, focusing on dose-finding and tolerability."
They add: "A key clinical question raised by our work...is whether psychiatrically hospitalized dark-complected adolescents, including African-Americans, Asians, and Muslim females in traditional covered dress, should be routinely supplemented with vitamin D until proven otherwise."
MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012