Findings linking vitamin D levels during pregnancy with child IQ published in The Journal of Nutrition

November 2, 2020

ECHO PATHWAYS investigators published a study in The Journal of Nutrition examining the relationship between prenatal vitamin D levels and childhood cognitive development in the CANDLE cohort. During pregnancy, a mother’s vitamin D supply is shared with the fetus, and helps regulate important processes including brain development. Approximately 46% of the mothers in the CANDLE cohort were deficient in vitamin D during their pregnancy, and vitamin D levels were lower among Black women compared to White women. After controlling for several other factors related to IQ, higher vitamin D levels in pregnancy were associated with higher IQ in children at ages 4-6 years. This study confirmed that vitamin D deficiency is common in pregnancy, and that Black women may be at higher risk because of reduced vitamin D production in the skin. These findings also revealed that higher vitamin D levels in pregnancy may promote brain development in offspring and lead to greater childhood IQ scores. Additional research is needed to determine the optimal levels of vitamin D in pregnancy, but this study may help to develop nutritional recommendations for pregnant women. Especially among Black women and those at high risk for vitamin D deficiency, nutritional supplementation may be an impactful strategy for reducing health disparities. ECHO PATHWAYS PI Dr. Fran Tylavsky was senior author and Dr. Melissa Melough, ECHO PATHWAYS epidemiologist, was first author on this paper.