Neonatal vitamin D levels and cognitive ability in young adulthood

  • Ina Olmer Specht
  • Janet Janbek
  • Fanney Thorsteinsdottir
  • Peder Frederiksen
  • Berit L. HeitmannEmail author
Original Contribution



Intelligence has a strong influence on life capability, and thus, identifying early modifiable risk factors related to cognitive ability is of major public health interest. During pregnancy, vitamin D is transported from the mother to the fetus through the placenta in the form of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D). Levels of 25(OH)D have in some studies been associated with childhood neurodevelopment; however, results from all studies are not in agreement. We investigated if neonatal 25(OH)D3 concentrations were associated with Børge Priens IQ test score (BPP) in young adulthood.


In this nested cohort study, 25(OH)D3 concentrations were measured in dried blood spots from 818 newborns. We followed the children for their IQ BPP test scores in the Danish Conscription Register, which holds information on test results from the BPP test on individuals who have been recruited for Danish mandatory military draft board examination. Using general linear models, we investigated the crude and adjusted relationship between quintiles of 25(OH)D3 concentrations and BPP IQ test results.


The study population consisted of 95.8% men, with a mean age of 19.4 years. The median and range of the neonatal 25(OH)D3 levels were 26.2 nmol/L (0–104.7 nmol/L). The overall Wald test did not show an association between neonatal 25(OH)D3 levels and BPP IQ scores (p = 0.23); however, individuals within the 3rd (BPP IQ = 101.0, 98.0–103.9) and 4th (BPP IQ = 101.2, 99.1–104.3) quintiles had slightly higher BPP IQ scores than individuals from the first quintile (BPP IQ = 97.6, 94.6–100.6).


Our results support the hypothesis that individuals with the lowest levels of neonatal vitamin D might have slightly lower BPP. However, more studies are needed with larger study populations to confirm our results.


Vitamin D Fetal programming Cognitive development IQ Neonatal 



The present study was funded by the Programme Commission on Health, Food and Welfare under the Danish Council for Strategic research (Grant number 0603-00453B). We are further grateful to the Oak Foundation for the essential co-financing of the Parker Institute. The funder had no role in data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All relevant registries are accessible and the collection of data from these registries is in accordance with accepted ethical principles for informed consent according to the Declaration of Helsinki. Statistics Denmark created the relevant sub-data sets anonymized. Permissions from the Danish Data Protection (J. no. 2012-41-1156) and the Ethical Committee of the Capital Region of Denmark (H-3-2011-126) have been granted.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Unit for Dietary Studies, The Parker InstituteBispebjerg and Frederiksberg HospitalFrederiksbergDenmark
  2. 2.Section for General Practice, The Department of Public HealthUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.The Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating DisordersThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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