Vitamin D is essential for bone health and calcium absorption. Approximately 30% of people with learning disabilities take anti-epileptic drugs. These drugs are thought to negatively affect vitamin D catabolism (breaking down of vitamin D in the body at a higher than normal rate, which ultimately results in a high risk factor for low bone-mass density and fractures). As a result, people with learning disabilities are prone to osteoporosis and fractures. Anti-epileptic drugs are known to cause a vitamin D deficiency which is an established cause for osteoporosis and osteomalaica.

Very little research has been done in terms of learning more about Vitamin D deficiency effects on those with learning disabilities. The question remains...do all those suffering from a learning disability suffer a Vitamin D deficiency or is it only those who are on anti epileptic drugs?

A recent study carried out at Oxford University was published in The British Journal of Psychiatry. The study involved researchers carrying out tests to discover if people with learning disabilities are more likely to have a Vitamin D deficiency.

The Methods Of The Study Involved

  • Researchers measured Vitamin D levels in 155 people with learning disabilities.
  • The average age of participants was 43 (range of 18 – 70).
  • The degree of learning disabilities was mild (49.7%), moderate (32.3%), severe (14.2%) and profound (3.9%). 40.6% of the group was on anti-epileptics.
  • Researches also measured the Vitamin D levels of 192 people of a similar age without learning disabilities as controls.
  • Vitamin D deficiency was defined as having a level less than 50 nmol/l, and severe vitamin D deficiency was defined as having a level less than 30 nmol/l.

Here are the results of the study:

  • Vitamin D deficiency was found in 77.3% of the group with disabilities and 39.6% in the control group.
  • Median Vitamin D levels were measured at 28.7nmol/l for the group with learning disabilities and 57.9nmol/l for the control group.
  • Those suffering from learning disabilities and also on anti epileptic drugs were found to have more severe Vitamin D deficiency with a 24.3nmol/l median vitamin D level.
  • Those suffering from learning disabilities but not on anti epileptic drugs were still deficient in Vitamin D, but had a higher median Vitamin D level of 33nmol/l.

The Conclusion Of The Study

  • Vitamin D deficiency is notably more prevalent in groups of people suffering from a learning disability than in groups of people without learning disabilities.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is found in people with learning disabilities, whether they are on anti epileptic drugs or not.