May 30, 2011

116 Vitamin D & Autism [30 May 2011]

Autism is a neurological disorder that severely affects the social and communication behavior of children. Its cause is not well understood but a strong genetic component is recognized. Treatments to date have not been very successful.

In 2005 Dr John Cannell developed the theory that a deficiency of vitamin D during pregnancy and infancy greatly increases the risk of autism. Subsequent research has shown remarkable improvement in autistic children treated with high levels of vitamin D. Evidence in support of his theory includes:
• Increased prevalence with latitude (similar to MS – a topic for another week)
• Higher rates for children born in the spring (whose mothers would be sunlight deprived during pregnancy)
• Increased risk for children of dark-skinned mothers living in high latitudes (eg a study of Somali immigrants in Sweden)
• Extremely low D levels measured in mothers of autistic children
• Animal studies of young deprived of vitamin D during gestation show brain abnormalities similar to those in autistic children
• Children with rickets frequently have autistic markers that disappear with vitamin D treatment

Cannell’s subsequent research with vitamin D as a treatment for autism shows great promise. While vitamin D cannot reverse the damage to the genes, it does control the expression of many genes in the brain. At this time there are no controlled studies of autism treatment with vitamin D, but many anecdotal reports of improvement have been published in Dr. Cannell’s newsletter. The best outcomes occur in children started at a young age and with very high levels of supplementation, which require monitoring by a knowledgeable physician. For more information on Cannell’s work see or more specifically

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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