Low Levels of Maternal Vitamin D During Pregnancy Raises Risk of ADHD in Offspring

New Study Suggests Risk is 1.5 x More than Average

For the first time, researchers have discovered that a low level of maternal vitamin D during the early stages of pregnancy increases the risk of the fetus developing clinically diagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by adolescence. While previous research has linked vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy with autism in male in offspring, this study did not connect ADHD risk with a specific sex. This new research was conducted in Finland, which utilizes birth registries that contain blood samples taken in early pregnancy. The study’s authors examined the birth registry’s blood sample data with national records that included referrals of young people to “specialized” healthcare services, including psychiatric services. From there they designed a study which was composed of 1067 mother-child pairs where the child was diagnosed with ADHD by age 12, and compared them to an equal number of mother-child pairs where the child did not receive an ADHD diagnosis. The team examined the maternal vitamin D levels from blood samples taken from the first trimester or early second trimester of both cohorts from the Finnish birth registry. They found that low levels of vitamin D in early pregnancy created a 1.5 times risk of developing ADHD in offspring. The researchers noted that early pregnancy is a critical time for fetal brain development. They also explained that vitamin D receptors are expressed in the brain and that earlier research has demonstrated that vitamin D affects brain function via regulation of calcium signaling as well as by affecting molecular factors which support and protect neurons, helping them mature and grow. The study’s authors pointed out that while nutritional deficiencies have been improved in recent decades, vitamin D deficiency is still very common, especially in pregnant women.

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