Vitamin D deficiency linked to adolescent aggression

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | Olga Ignatova
Getty | Olga Ignatova
Vitamin D deficiency in childhood could result in aggressive behaviour as well as anxious and depressive moods during adolescence, according to a study of school children in Colombia.

Therefore researchers from University of Michigan wanted to discover the associations of vitamin D deficiency (VDD) and vitamin D binding protein (DBP) in middle childhood with behaviour problems in adolescence.

The findings, published in The Journal of Nutrition​, revealed that children with VDD were almost twice as likely to develop behaviour problems including aggressive and rule breaking behaviours, compared with children who had higher levels of the vitamin.

Also, low levels of the protein that transports vitamin D in blood were related to more self-reported aggressive behaviour and anxious or depressed symptoms.

The associations were independent of child, parental and household characteristics.

Eduardo Villamor, professor of epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health and senior author of the study, said: "Children who have vitamin D deficiency during their elementary school years appear to have higher scores on tests that measure behaviour problems when they reach adolescence."

Villamor said vitamin D deficiency has been associated with other mental health problems in adulthood, including depression and schizophrenia, and some studies have focused on the effect of vitamin D status during pregnancy and childhood.

However, he notes that few studies have extended into adolescence, the stage when behaviour problems may first appear and become serious conditions.


In 2006, Villamor's team recruited 3,202 children aged 5-12 years into a cohort study in Bogotá, Colombia, through a random selection from primary public schools.

The investigators obtained information on the children's daily habits, maternal education level, weight and height, as well as the household's food insecurity and socioeconomic status. Researchers also took blood samples.

After about six years, when the children were 11-18 years old, the investigators conducted in-person follow-up interviews in a random group of one-third of the participants, assessing the children's behaviour through questionnaires that were administered to the children themselves and their parents. The vitamin D analyses included 273 of those participants.

While the authors acknowledge the study's limitations, including a lack of baseline behaviour measures, they says their results indicate the need for additional studies involving neuro-behavioural outcomes in other populations where vitamin D deficiency may be a public health problem.



Source: The Journal of Nutrition

Authors: Robinson. S. L., et al

“Vitamin D Deficiency in Middle Childhood Is Related to Behavior Problems in Adolescence.”​ 

DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxz185

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