It’s impossible to neatly separate mental health from physical wellness. Previous research has uncovered myriad connections between health choices and psychological states, and clinicians are increasingly aware of the ways lifestyle choices and physical health can affect mental health. People who exercise regularly, for example, are less likely to be depressed. According to a new study, vitamin D deficiency plays a role in schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia and Vitamin D Deficiency
Schizophrenia may be more common among people living in colder climates where sunlight and vitamin D are in short supply. Researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, examined the connection between vitamin D and schizophrenia by evaluating 19 previous studies of the connection between vitamin D and various health problems. The studies provided vitamin D levels for a total of 2,804 adults.
People with schizophrenia had vitamin D levels that were, on average, 5.91 ng/ml lower than those without schizophrenia. Overall, people with low levels of vitamin D were 2.16 times more likely to have schizophrenia.
The study strengthens the findings of previous research, which suggests that children who don’t get enough vitamin D early in life are at an increased risk of schizophrenia. While the connection between vitamin D and schizophrenia is fertile ground for future research, the latest study does not necessarily mean that vitamin D can either treat or prevent schizophrenia. Ahmad Esmaillzadeh, PhD, one of the study’s authors, points out that schizophrenia may actually cause vitamin D deficiency.
About 2.4 million Americans have schizophrenia, which causes hallucinations, delusions, and unusual thoughts. While schizophrenia is treatable, commonly used medications can have unpleasant side effects, making it difficult for some people to continue treatment. Research into the role of vitamin D in schizophrenia may offer a glimmer of hope. The study’s authors indicate that future research should evaluate whether there is a causal relationship between vitamin D and schizophrenia.
- Benefits of exercise – reduces stress, anxiety, and helps fight depression, from Harvard Men’s Health Watch. (2011, February). Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/benefits-of-exercisereduces-stress-anxiety-and-helps-fight-depression
- Whiteman, Honor. (2014, July 23). Could vitamin D deficiency increase the risk of schizophrenia? Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279915.php
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