Food and Behaviour Research

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Gestational Vitamin 25(OH)D Status as a Risk Factor for Receptive Language Development: A 24-Month, Longitudinal, Observational Study.

Tylavsky FA, Kocak M, Murphy LE, Graff JC, Palmer FB, Völgyi E, Diaz-Thomas AM, Ferry RJ. (2015) Nutrients. 7(12) 9918-30. doi: 10.3390/nu7125499. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here. Free full text of this article is available online


Emerging data suggest that vitamin D status during childhood and adolescence can affect neurocognitive development. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether gestational 25(OH)D status is associated with early childhood cognitive and receptive language development.

The Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early Childhood Study (CANDLE) study enrolled 1503 mother-child dyads during the second trimester of healthy singleton pregnancies from Shelby County TN.

Among 1020 participants of the total CANDLE cohort for whom 25(OH)D levels were available, mean gestational 25(OH)D level during the second trimester was 22.3 ng/mL (range 5.9-68.4), with 41.7% of values <20 ng/dL. 

Cognitive and language scaled scores increased in a stair-step manner as gestational 25(OH)D levels in the second trimester rose from <20 ng/dL, through 20-29.99 ng/dL, to ≥30 ng/dL

When controlling for socioeconomic status, race, use of tobacco products, gestational age of the child at birth, and age at the 2-year assessment, the gestational 25(OH)D was positively related to receptive language development (p < 0.017), but not cognitive or expressive language.


In this study, lower maternal Vitamin D levels in early pregnancy were linked with poorer performance of infants on measures of receptive language development, but not expressive language or cognition.

Previous studies have shown poorer performance on both 
motor and cognitive development in infants born to mothers with lower Vitamin D levels during pregnancy. See:

Observational studies like these cannot provide evidence of causality. Currently, controlled trials of Vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy are very few, and have not assessed cognitive and motor development. However, these have shown improvements in maternal Vitamin D status, possible improvements in birth weight, and importantly - no adverse effects.(De Regil et al 2012)

Given the high prevalence of sub-optimal Vitamin D status during pregnancy (affecting more than 4 in every 10 mothers in the current study), more controlled trials are needed to assess the potential effects on children's mental as well as physical health and development. Meanwhile, however, existing evidence indicates that supplementation to ensure that all mothers have adequate Vitamin D status during pregnancy is safe, and may also have general health benefits for both mothers and infants.