Children of mothers who were vitamin D deficient early in their pregnancies are more likely to develop behavior issues and ADHD-like symptoms in preschool, according to new research from Greece.
"Given the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women, these findings could have important clinical and public-health implications," said Leda Chatzi, MD, coauthor of the poster presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology 2016, and director of the Rhea mother-child pregnancy cohort study, which was started in Crete in 2007, in a medscape.com post about the research. The Rhea longitudinal , prospective pregnancy cohort study aims to evaluate nutritional, environmental, biological and psychosocial impacts on 1,300 mothers and their children from the prenatal stage through age seven.
For the study, the researchers evaluated the children’s cognitive and motor functions using the McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities (MSCA). They measured their emotional and behavioral development using the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Test. They use multivariable linear regression analyses to calculate the effect of the mother’s vitamin D status on child neurodevelopment.
"The lower the mother's vitamin D levels, the higher the child's hyperactivity and inattention," Vasiliki Daraki, MD, an endocrinologist from the University of Crete, Heraklion, Greece, who led the analysis, said in the release. The analysis showed that maternal vitamin D levels lower than 50 nmol/L during the first trimester of pregnancy were associated with increased behavioral problems and ADHD-like symptoms among the offspring.
"I think that we need to stay focused on vitamin D levels in early pregnancy, not late pregnancy,” said Daraki. “It is important that mothers who are deficient receive the right treatment. Unfortunately, because we have so much sunshine, most people think that in Greece we have adequate levels of vitamin D, but this isn't the case.” Even in sunny countries like Greece, vitamin D deficiency is a growing public health issue, yet there is no recommendation for pregnant women to take supplements.
Earlier research that linked iodine deficiency in pregnant women to a higher prevalence of ADHD adds to the growing body of research surrounding nutrition during pregnancy and ADHD risk in children.