The Impact of Maternal Vitamin D Status on Offspring Brain Development and Function: a Systematic Review

Adv Nutr. 2016 Jul 15;7(4):665-78. doi: 10.3945/an.115.010330. Print 2016 Jul.


Various studies have examined associations between maternal vitamin D (VD) deficiency and offspring health, including offspring brain health. The purpose of this review was to summarize current evidence concerning the impact of maternal VD deficiency on brain development and function in offspring. A systematic search was conducted within Medline (on Ovid) for studies published through 7 May 2015. Animal and human studies that examined associations between maternal VD status or developmental VD deficiency and offspring brain development and function were included. A total of 26 animal studies and 10 human studies met the inclusion criteria. Several animal studies confirmed the hypothesis that low prenatal VD status may affect brain morphology and physiology as well as behavioral outcomes. In humans, subtle cognitive and psychological impairments in offspring of VD-deficient mothers were observed. However, data obtained from animal and human studies provide inconclusive evidence, and results seem to depend on strain or race and age of offspring. To conclude, prenatal VD status is thought to play an important role in brain development, cognitive function, and psychological function. However, results are inconclusive; validation of these findings and investigation of underlying mechanisms are required. Thus, more investigation is needed before recommending supplementation of VD during pregnancy to promote brain health of offspring.

Keywords: 25(OH)D; brain; cognition; developmental; maternal; neuropsychological; prenatal; vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Development
  • Humans
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / etiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / blood*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Vitamin D / blood*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications*


  • Vitamin D