Vitamin D deficiency and childhood learning disabilities may be linked, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers from the University of Glasgow studied over 800,000 children who went to Scottish schools from 2006 to 2011, where they discovered a seasonal pattern in children with autism or learning conditions like dyslexia.
Vitamin D deficiency could lead to learning disabilities?
The scientists found 8.9 percent of children conceived in winter had learning disabilities, compared to 7.6 percent of those those conceived in the warmer, sunnier months. Researchers concluded that mothers' vitamin D deficiency during winter may contribute to these special education needs, and the team also hypothesized that the prevalence of cold and flu illnesses during the colder months could also be a plausible factor.
"We know that vitamin D is essential for healthy brain development in babies, and the first few weeks in pregnancy are a critical period when the brain develops," Jill Pell, director of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, told the BBC. "In the United Kingdom in the winter months, we don't have enough sunlight for our bodies to actually produce vitamin D, and other studies that have been in animals have confirmed that if you have animals that are low in vitamin D their offspring have brain problems, and if you give vitamin D they are avoided."
In unrelated research, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition suggested last summer that every U.K. resident over the age of 1 year consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D supplements a day if they're not already receiving this amount from their daily diet. This recommendation comes as one official estimated to BBC News that 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 children in the U.K. have low vitamin D levels.
Benefits of the sunshine vitamin
SACN wants U.K. residents to take vitamin D supplements to protect bone and muscle health. But there are many other benefits offered from increasing your vitamin D intake. Known as the sunshine vitamin, your body produces vitamin D in response to the sun's rays hitting your skin. You should take supplements if you live in a cloudy area of the country, don't get enough direct sunlight or fail to consume enough natural food sources of vitamin D, such as salmon, eggs yolks, shrimp, fortified milk and orange juice.
In addition to promoting bone and muscle health, certain studies found that people suffering from depression saw improvement in their symptoms after taking regular vitamin D supplements. Some other scientists have found links between vitamin D deficiency and anxiety and depression.
Vitamin D supplement intake may also be a benefit for people trying to lose weight or fortify their body from heart disease. One study found that study participants who took daily vitamin D and calcium supplements lost more pounds than those taking a placebo supplement. One reason for this occurrence could be how the extra supplement intake suppressed participants' appetite.
Vitamin D deficiency is common, especially for people who spend a lot of time indoors, wear sunscreen or live in cities where buildings block out natural sunlight. The main symptoms of poor levels of this vitamin include general tiredness, stress fractures, severe muscle or bone pain or weakness. Numerous adults who lack vitamin D report a general sense of poor well-being. Many physicians recommend daily intake of vitamin D supplements to boost levels and overall healthiness.
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