A longitudinal study, recently published in Schizophrenia Research, measures the relationship between Vitamin D and clinical symptoms in persons experiencing a first episode of psychosis (FEP). After following persons diagnosed with FEP over 12 months, the researchers found that, at baseline, 80% of individuals with FEP had suboptimal levels of vitamin D. Moreover, a higher baseline level of vitamin D was associated with lower symptom scores at follow-up.
“Suboptimal vitamin D is highly prevalent in FEP, and remains so 12 months after first contact for psychosis,” they write. “We found that higher baseline vitamin D levels were associated with fewer total and negative psychotic symptoms at one year after first contact for psychosis, suggesting that vitamin D may have relevance to the course of psychotic disorders.”
Vitamin D can be neuroprotective and low levels are often seen in persons who develop schizophrenia. Additionally, research has established a relationship between positive and negative symptoms of psychosis. Deficiencies in vitamin D levels and are well established in people with depression. The present study aimed to provide clarity on the relationship between vitamin D levels and psychotic and depressive symptoms after FEP.
One-hundred sixty-eight adults with FEP were recruited and followed across 12-months. Data was collected on vitamin D levels, age, sex, ethnicity, diagnoses, positive and negative symptoms, functioning, and mood symptoms. Participants were administered a battery of cognitive assessments to measure cognitive functioning.
- At 12 months, 84% of participants had suboptimal vitamin D levels, 45% had vitamin D deficiency, and 36% were classified as vitamin D insufficient. Only 17% had optimal vitamin D levels
- Only the cognitive domain of verbal memory had a significant relationship with higher baseline vitamin D levels.
- Lower ratings on positive and negative symptom and higher levels of vitamin D at baseline were found
- Higher baseline vitamin D was associated with reduced negative symptoms scores at 12 months
The few significant findings presented in this paper shed light on the existence of the relationship between vitamin D and symptoms of psychosis. However, the mixed results reveal the need for further clarity in our understanding of the role of nutrients play in the development of mental health difficulties (e.g., psychosis and depression). Despite the mixed findings, the relationship between baseline vitamin D levels and clinical state at 12 months as well as the improvement seen in negative symptoms in 12 months in those with higher levels of vitamin D are notable.
Lally, J., Ajnakina, O., Singh, N., Gardner-Sood, P., Stubbs, B., Stringer, D., … & Howes, O. D. (2018). Vitamin D and clinical symptoms in First Episode Psychosis (FEP): A prospective cohort study. Schizophrenia research. (Link)