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Neurodevelopmental effects of prenatal vitamin D in humans: systematic review and meta-analysis


Diverse studies have investigated the impact of prenatal exposure to vitamin D levels on brain development; however, evidence in humans has never been systematically reviewed. This article summarized evidence of the association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels in maternal blood in pregnancy or newborn blood at birth and neurodevelopmental outcomes, including cognition, psychomotor performance, language development, behavioral difficulties, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autistic traits. PubMed, Web of Science and SCOPUS databases were systematically searched for epidemiologic studies published through May 2018 using keywords. Random-effects meta-analyses were conducted. Of 260 identified articles, 25 were included in the present review. Comparing the highest vs. the lowest category of prenatal 25(OH)D levels, the pooled beta coefficients were 0.95 (95% CI −0.03, 1.93; p = 0.05) for cognition, and 0.88 (95% CI −0.18, 1.93; p = 0.10) for psychomotor development. The pooled relative risk for ADHD was 0.72 (95% CI, 0.59, 0.89; p = 0.002), and the pooled odds ratio for autism-related traits was 0.42 (95% CI, 0.25, 0.71; p = 0.001). There was little evidence for protective effects of high prenatal 25(OH)D for language development and behavior difficulties. This meta-analysis provides supporting evidence that increased prenatal exposure to 25(OH)D levels is associated with improved cognitive development and reduced risk of ADHD and autism-related traits later in life. Associations represent a potentially high public health burden given the current prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency among childbearing aging and pregnant women.

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AMG-S was funded by a predoctoral contract (FI17/00086) and EM was funded by a Miguel Servet Grant Fellowship (MS14/00046) both awarded by the Spanish Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII), Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, and Fondos FEDER.

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Correspondence to Eva Morales.

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García-Serna, A.M., Morales, E. Neurodevelopmental effects of prenatal vitamin D in humans: systematic review and meta-analysis. Mol Psychiatry 25, 2468–2481 (2020).

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