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An overview on current evidence on vitamin D and brain disorders

Posted on: September 24, 2013   by  Rebecca Oshiro


In a compelling editorial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers argue there is convincing evidence vitamin D deficiency negatively impacts brain development in the fetus and exacerbates the progression of brain disorders in adults.

Cui X, Groves NJ, Burne TH, Eyles DW, Mcgrath JJ. Low vitamin D concentration exacerbates adult brain dysfunction. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(5):907-8.

The past decade has seen a surge in research investigating the role of vitamin D in brain function. The empirical evidence consists of:

  • A clear link between vitamin D and brain function from in vitro and animal studies
  • Mixed results from population studies
  • Mixed results from a small number of randomized controlled trials (RCT)

From this body of research, the authors conclude there is evidence for vitamin D deficiency in utero as a causative factor in neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia. They hypothesize an “absence of vitamin D deprives the developing brain of an expected signal.”

In contrast, vitamin D deficiency in adults is unlikely to cause a brain disorder per se, but likely aggravates it once it begins. Multiple sclerosis, dementia, and depression are complex disorders originating from a combination of risk factors, including vitamin D deficiency, but once they have started there is emerging evidence that supplemental vitamin D can halt or limit their progression.

A modest, yet exciting, recent RCT published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vitamin D supplementation helped slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease (PD). While vitamin D did not cure PD, those in the placebo group saw a steady worsening of their symptoms compared to those in the treatment group. We blog on that study here.

PD is a neurological disorder affecting muscle control and balance. It is associated with the loss of nerve cells that produce dopamine. Recently, scientists discovered that the vitamin D receptor is most strongly expressed in dopamine-rich areas of the brain, which could explain vitamin D’s neuroprotective effects in PD progression.

In conclusion, more and more research continues to show a neuroprotective effect of vitamin D in the development and progression of an assortment of brain disorders. While the research in this area of neurology is in its infancy, it provides yet another compelling reason to optimize your vitamin D level, especially if you are pregnant or diagnosed with a brain disorder.

2 Responses to An overview on current evidence on vitamin D and brain disorders

  1. Rita and Misty


    I thought of you recently, as from your bio I can see that you are interested in clinical health psychology…. 😉

    I posted the below link on the VDC FB page last week. Here is my post in its entirety:

    I apologize to Vitamin D Council that this particular journal article does not specifically pertain to vitamin D; however I do believe that by shifting our paradigm from medicine to marketing, we can glean insights into how we can better market and “sell” vitamin D to mainstream medicine and to the populations at large…and we should…after all the sunscreen industry did something similar to the WORST of ALL our collective health:


    Rebecca: I found this journal article to be fascinating. Hope you do as well.

    Be well,

  2. Anh Phan

    My friend how live in Germany have severe symptom of vitamin D deficiency. I sent him some Vitamin D and nutrition supplement, my entire package we taken by Germany Custom, because it is not allowed in Germany. I hope doctor of Medicine MD should know more about natural nutrition than drugs. I feel sorry for my friend. I recovered myself from long time IBS and early symptom of MS by taking vitamin D and nutrition supplement without any prescription drugs. Do we have a choice to taking care of our self?

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