Vitamin D — the sunshine vitamin — got another thumbs-up recently.

A small study in Oregon found that children with serious mental illnesses are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than children with good mental health. Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University, led by Dr. Keith Cheng, tested vitamin D levels in 67 children (ranging from seven to 17) in a psychiatric hospital. The children had illnesses including anxiety disorder, autism, disruptive disorder, mood disorder and psychotic disorder. They compared these to children in the general, healthy population.

Vitamin D deficiency was found in 21 per cent of the inpatients, compared with only 14 per cent in healthy children. This is not enough evidence to say low vitamin D causes mental illness, but the subject is worthy of further study, said the authors.

This is a good reminder to Canadian parents that vitamin D is important, especially in the fall and winter months, when children get less sun. Recognizing this, the government has raised the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for children.

 

“As we go into October 2011, I am thrilled that the RDA for children has gone up three-fold, compared to October last year,” says Dr. Reinhold Vieth, director of the bone and mineral laboratory at Mount Sinai Hospital and a professor at the University of Toronto.

“Official government agencies are advising parents to provide children with 600 I.U. vitamin D as the average daily supply, and I think that is excellent basic advice.”

Vieth notes that Vitamin D helps prevent rickets and may lower the risk of influenza or allergy. Some research shows vitamin D boosts mood and reduces risk of depression.

“Modern lifestyles are generally sun-avoiding,” he warns. “Of course there is also less vitamin D-forming UVB sunlight available the farther north one goes.”

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