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Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy linked to autism

By Benjamin Rotholtz | December 3rd, 2018

If you are reading this blog, I am sure that you are familiar with the role of vitamin D in promoting healthy bones and a healthy cardiovascular system as well as reduced risk for diabetes. Additional studies suggest that low vitamin D may be associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. New research just added one more surprise benefit for vitamin D supplementation – vitamin D deficiency in pregnant mothers is linked with autistic traits in the child a few years down the track.

The researchers at Australia’s University of Queensland and the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands examined around 4,200 blood samples from pregnant women and their children and discovered a link between autism and low levels of vitamin D. More specifically, they found that pregnant women who were vitamin D deficient at 20 weeks gestation were more likely to have a child with autistic traits by the age of six.1

The result from this Queensland study seems to support the conclusion from a previous study published in the Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences in 2014, which revealed that Vitamin D deficiency was higher in autism children compared to healthy children.The case–control study conducted between June 2011 and May 2013 surveyed a total of 508 children, 254 of autism and 254 of healthy children. The analysis revealed that Vitamin D deficiency was higher in autism children compared to healthy children.

Most of the vitamin D that we rely on comes from the sun. But things like air quality, long and cold winters at higher latitudes or simply covering up to avoid dangerous uv exposure can limit the amount of vitamin D people draw from sunlight. Rather than taking in more sunlight and, with it, the heightened risk of skin cancer, the researchers suggest that taking vitamin D supplements may be a better path forward.

Thanks for reading.

Journal References:

  1. Vinkhuyzen, A. E. et al. Gestational vitamin D deficiency and autism-related traits: the Generation R Study, Molecular Psychiatry November 29, 2016; doi: 10.1038/mp.2016.213
  2. Bener, A. et al. Is high prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency evidence for autism disorder?: In a highly endogamous population, J. Pediatr Neurosc. 2014 Sept-Dec; 9(3) 227-233.

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