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Copyright 2013 Natural Standard (
April 2012

Vitamin D May Not Improve Academic Performance

Intake of higher amounts of vitamin D through diet or sunlight may not improve performance in school for children, according to a study.

Vitamin D is found in many dietary sources, such as fish, eggs, fortified milk and cod liver oil. The sun also contributes significantly to the daily production of vitamin D, and as little as 10 minutes of exposure is thought to be enough to prevent deficiencies. The term "vitamin D" refers to several different forms of this vitamin. Two forms are important in humans: ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). Vitamin D2 is synthesized by plants. Vitamin D3 is synthesized by humans in the skin when it is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from sunlight. Foods may be fortified with vitamin D2 or D3.

In a new study, authors reported that previous findings suggest higher vitamin D intake may enhance brain function in adults. The researchers analyzed data on 3,171 children to evaluate if vitamin D may also benefit children. Vitamin D intake and academic performance were first measured at the age of 10, then a second time at 13-14 years-old and again at 15-16 years-old.

The results suggested that vitamin D concentrations do not affect performance in English, mathematics and science. Higher levels of vitamin D were associated with poorer grades in English at 13-14 years-old and poorer overall academic performance at ages 15-16.

The scientists concluded that their findings do not confirm a link between vitamin D intake and enhanced academic performance in children. More studies are needed to better understand these findings.

The major biologic function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones. It is used alone or in combination with calcium, to increase bone mineral density and decrease fractures. Recently, research also suggests that vitamin D may provide protection from osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer and several autoimmune diseases.

For more information about vitamin D, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. Tolppanen AM, Sayers A, Fraser WD J, et al. Association of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 and D2 with academic performance in childhood: findings from a prospective birth cohort. Epidemiol Community Health. 2012 Apr 9. View Abstract
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