Association between mental disorders, cognitive disturbances and vitamin D serum level: Current state

Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2018 Feb:23:89-102. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2017.11.011. Epub 2017 Dec 23.


Background & aims: Vitamin D deficiency has been identified as a global problem. Approximately 14% of the world population has inadequate vitamin D levels. This vitamin has been usually associated with bone disorders such as rickets, osteomalacia, and osteoporosis. However, these disorders present only a small part of all the disturbances which can be induced by its deficiency. Low serum vitamin D is associated with development of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome and even cancer. This vitamin may be an important factor in the development of psychiatric illnesses, therefore clinicians should not leave this serious issue unresolved. The aim of this review is to describe the current data concerning the association between vitamin D serum levels, cognition and mental disorders.

Methods: We conducted a systematic bibliographical research, of PubMed, MedLine literature and Cochrane database without language restriction to identify all publications concerning this issue from 1995 to the first quarter of 2017.

Results: We found 48,937 articles concerning vitamin D, published during the last 22 years and 3 months (1995-2017). We selected only those publications focused on the association between vitamin D serum deficiency and mental disturbances (depression, schizophrenia, cognitive disturbances, attention deficit disorder, and autism). One hundred and sixty-seven papers were found suitable to our selection criteria. Careful evaluation of the relevant literature demonstrates that addition of vitamin D to conventional antidepressive agents can improve antidepressive effect in contrast to placebo. Regarding other mental conditions there are no clear-cut conclusions.

Conclusions: An association between low vitamin D serum levels and different mental disorders was found. Yet, nonetheless there is no clear consensus that addition of vitamin D improves or is related to a beneficial effect on mental health. More randomized clinical control trials should be performed in order to reach evidence based conclusions.

Keywords: Attention deficit disorder; Autism spectrum disorder; Cognitive disturbances; Depression; Schizophrenia; Vitamin D deficiency.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / blood*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Vitamin D / blood*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood*


  • Vitamin D