Vitamin D has a lot of health benefits to offer, but recent research indicates that improving the cognitive abilities of teenagers is not one of them. A study published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health proposes that higher levels of vitamins D2 and D3 in students aged 13 to 16 do not promote higher academic achievement.
The study was part of ALSPAC, or Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which monitors the long term health of children born in the 1990’s. This study was conducted amongst a group of over 3,000 children whose vitamin D2 and D3 levels were measured at the average age of nine, again at the age of 13 to 14 and once more at 15 to 16 years of age.
The subjects were also tested for academic performance in English, maths and science, based on their GCSE exam grades. The results indicated no academic superiority in those with higher levels of D3, and higher levels of D2 were linked to poorer academic performance in both 13-14 and 15-16 age levels.
The explanation may relate to the difference between D2 and D3. Vitamin D3 is synthesized by the human body from sunlight on the skin. D2 is synthesised by plants and fungi (mushrooms are an example) so we get it from foods ingested.
The researchers surmised that children with poorer ‘brainpower’ spend less time outdoors, thus reducing the amount of D3 in their systems. There is also the possibility that the D vitamins have a more cumulative effect over the years, or that they have more effect on the brain as it ages.
A massive amount of research has demonstrated other health benefits including improved bone density, and much of the research supports the assumption that optimal levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of many types of cancer, heart disease and immune deficiencies.