Vitamin D deficiency is linked to first episodes of psychosis (FEP), new research suggests.
A study of almost 140 participants in the United Kingdom showed that those who were presenting to a psychiatric in-patient facility with an FEP had significantly lower levels of vitamin D than did their age-matched, healthy peers.
“What surprised us was the degree of difference between the patients and their matched controls, with patients being nearly 3 times as likely to have full-blown vitamin D deficiency,” co–first author John Lally, MRCPsych, clinical research fellow in the IMPACT project at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, UK, and in the UK’s National Psychosis Unit, told Medscape Medical News.
“However, we still don’t know whether these low vitamin D levels are a part of the psychosis illness itself or whether they are purely a result of the lifestyle choices linked to its emergence,” added Dr. Lally.
The investigators note that future studies are needed to examine these associations further.
“In the meantime, there is a need for more widespread testing of vitamin D levels in FEP and for the development of appropriate management strategies,” they write.
The study is published in the November issue of Schizophrenia Research.
First Study of Its Kind
Previous research has shown that individuals with psychotic disorders often have vitamin D deficiency. However, this could be caused by long periods of hospitalization, use of anticonvulsant medications, or poor diet, note the investigators.
They add that until now, no study has assessed whether the association occurs at the onset of illness.
Dr. John Lally
“It is known that people in long-stay psychiatric wards have high rates of vitamin D deficiency, possibly related to spending long periods indoors,” said Dr. Lally.
“We therefore expected that vitamin D levels may be somewhat low even in early psychosis, as people may be less engaged in their day-to-day activities in the period before their first presentation and so may have less exposure to sunlight,” he added.