How Does Vitamin D Impact a Child’s Development?

A recent study by scientists at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine has shown that exposure to altered levels of vitamin D and/or thyroid hormones during pregnancy may have long-lasting effects on a child’s development even after birth.

A retrospective study was conducted to examine the correlation between 20 different elemental levels, thyroid hormone levels, and vitamin D levels in umbilical cord blood collected at birth and a child’s developmental milestones. The levels were compared with the results of well child examinations that were conducted from birth to age 5.

The findings, recently published in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, an open access, peer-reviewed medical journal focused on clinical and basic medicine and pharmacology, showed that vitamin D levels were associated with a delay in fine motor development and thyroid hormone levels were associated with cognitive development. Certain metals such as lead, mercury, copper, and manganese were associated with language, cognitive, or motor skill development.

“Our study demonstrates the importance of the in-utero environment,” said Jesse Cottrell, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and lead author on the study. “The study found multiple associations between umbilical cord essential and toxic elements, thyroid levels and Vitamin D on childhood development for a pronounced time after birth.”

“Very little existing research addresses the long-term effects on child development of in utero exposure to environmental agents,” said Monica Valentovic, Ph.D., professor of biomedical sciences and toxicology research cluster coordinator at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and corresponding author on the study. “With the original umbilical cord blood samples collected in 2013, having long-term follow-up on developmental outcomes adds significantly to the literature.”

Reference: Reference: “Effect of umbilical cord essential and toxic elements, thyroid levels, and Vitamin D on childhood development” by Jesse Cottrell, Chelsea Nelson, Catherine Waldron, Mackenzie Bergeron, Abigail Samson and Monica Valentovic, 9 December 2022, Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.
DOI: 10.1016/j.biopha.2022.114085

The study was funded by the Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health at Marshall University, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, the translational research pilot grant program at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, and a National Institutes of Health grant.

The team continues to investigate the development of children beyond age 5 as well as in utero exposure to environmental metals and the impact on the development of the newborn or health effects related to vitamin D levels.