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Although vitamin D is best known for its role in bone health, this fat-soluble vitamin participates in many physiological processes, such as blood pressure regulation, immune function, and cell growth. Now, new research shows that vitamin D also supports neurodevelopment. Young children who received supplemental vitamin D were less likely to have neurobehavioral problems later in childhood than those who didn’t.

Researchers gave 346 infants either low-dose (400 IU) or high-dose (1,200 IU) vitamin D daily from two weeks to two years of age. Then, when the children were between six and eight years old, their parents completed questionnaires regarding their children’s behavior, particularly internalizing behaviors, such as depression, anxiety, and withdrawal. They also collected information about the mothers' prenatal vitamin D status.

They found that nearly 12 percent of the children on low-dose vitamin D exhibited internalizing behaviors between the ages of six and eight. However, fewer than 6 percent of those on the high-dose vitamin D exhibited internalizing behaviors, even after considering other factors that influence behavior, such as sex, maternal depression, and living in a single-parent household. Notably, 48 children in the low-dose group whose mothers had low prenatal vitamin D levels exhibited more internalizing behaviors than those in the high-dose group, suggesting that vitamin D supplementation in early childhood compensated for low prenatal exposure.

These findings highlight yet another role of vitamin D in human health. Learn more about vitamin D in our overview article.

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