Supplementing with vitamin D helps adolescents solve cognitively challenging tasks more easily and improves their mental well-being, according to a Norwegian study.
Young people perform better in cognitively challenging tests, have improved mental health and fewer self-reported behavioral problems when their blood levels of vitamin D are higher. Norwegian scientists demonstrated this in an intervention study of 50 male and female volunteers aged 13-14 years who received a vitamin D supplement (D3-Pearls from Pharma Nord) or a placebo.
The aim of the study was to investigate if vitamin D supplementation could affect executive functioning and self-perceived mental health in a group of Norwegian adolescents. Executive functions are mental skills that involve mental control and self-regulation. The randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial is published in the science journal Scandinavian Journal of Psychology.
Better at solving problems
The study was conducted during the winter period, as this is the time of the year where northern Europeans typically have low vitamin D levels. Before and after supplementation, both vitamin D and placebo groups were asked to perform different types of problem solving that involved strategic thinking and planning. The participants were also asked to self-report behaviors such as irritability, aggression, and rule-breaking conduct.
The Norwegian scientists observed that the vitamin D levels in the treatment group went up significantly (a 40 percent increase from baseline), showing that the supplement had good absorption. The vitamin D group performed better than the placebo group, especially in terms of solving challenging mental tasks.
Important for brain development
There is already solid evidence showing that vitamin D plays an important role in brain development, cognitive functioning, and mental health, findings all of which are supported by the new study. The researchers specifically link low vitamin D levels to an impaired ability to maintain concentration and to worse social behavior. This new study points to the importance of ensuring an adequate vitamin D status in young people.
Grung B, et al., ”Linking vitamin D status, executive functioning and self-perceived mental health in adolescents through multivariate analysis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” Scand J Psych. 2017;58(2):123–130March 2017