Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders, pp 1–11. Online: 20 Feb 2017, DOI: 10.1007/s11154-017-9409-0
John Jacob Cannell
An increasing amount of evidence points to the possibility that gestational and early childhood vitamin D deficiency [25(OH)D < 40 ng/ml] cause some cases of autism. Vitamin D is metabolized into a seco-steroid hormone that regulates about 3% of the 26,000 genes in the coding human genome. It is also a neurosteroid that is active in brain development, having effects on cellular proliferation, differentiation, calcium signaling, neurotrophic and neuroprotective actions; it also appears to have an effect on neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity.
Children who are, or who are destined to become, autistic have lower 25(OH)D levels at 3 months of gestation, at birth and at age 8 compared to their unaffected siblings.
Two open label trials found high dose vitamin D improves the core symptoms of autism in about 75% of autistic children.
A few of the improvements were remarkable. The vitamin D doses used in these children were 300 IU/KG/day up to a maximum of 5000 IU/day (highest final 25(OH)D level reached was 45 ng/ml). The other study used 150,000 IU/month IM as well as 400 IU/day [highest final 25(OH)D level was 52 ng/ml]. These two open label trials were recently confirmed with a randomized controlled trial (RCT) using 300 IU/kg/day with a maximum of 5000 IU/day and resulted in effects similar to the two open label studies.
In terms of prevention, a recent small study showed vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy (5000 IU/day) and during infancy and early childhood (1000 IU/day) significantly reduced the expected incidence of autism in mothers who already had one autistic child from 20% to 5%. Vitamin D is safe; for example, over the last 15 years, Poison Control reports there have been approximately 15,000 cases of vitamin D overdose. However only three of these 15,000 people developed clinical toxicity and no one died.
Given those facts, practitioners might consider treating autism with 300 IU/kg/day,
and seek to prevent autism by supplementing pregnant and lactating women (5000 IU/day)
and infants and young children (150 IU/kg/day) checking 25(OH)D levels every 3 months.
These doses will increase 25(OH)D blood levels to those recommended by the Endocrine Society. As the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vitamin D supplementation during infancy and childhood, pediatricians and family practitioners should evaluate the current evidence on autism and vitamin D and act accordingly.
- Autism associated with low vitamin D during pregnancy – Nov 2016
- Autism in children reduced by Vitamin D (used 300 IU per kg per day) – RCT Oct 2016
- Autism and Vitamin D massive review – latitude, season, migration, VitD levels and intervention – April 2016
- Autism 17 times more likely with excessive Folic Acid and B-12 (now added to bread) – May 2016
- Autism rate in siblings reduced 4X by vitamin D: 5,000 IU during pregnancy, 1,000 IU to infants – Feb 2016
Autism treated by Vitamin D: Dr. Cannell - video June 2013 includes many reasons why he believes Autism is related to Vitamin D
- Both have strong inheritance features – Vitamin D about 60%
- Both have gotten substantially worse in last 30 years
- Vitamin D is known to be involved in brain development
- All autistic children are VitD deficient, but not all children who are deficient are autistic: genes are involved
- When giving vitamin D to cure children of rickets “mental dullness” decreases as well
- Children with genes which give them too much (Williams Syndrome) have to reverse of autism – too sociable
- Mothers having lots of fish (and thus more vitamin D) give birth to kids with less autistic symptoms
- Both associated with weak bones
- Both worse around the age of weaning
- Autism is more common in rich families – more likely to apply sun screen and stay indoors
- Autism increases with drugs which lower levels of vitamin D
- Seizures are common with Autism - Vitamin D has been shown to reduce seizures
- Fewer autistic symptoms (such as sleep problems) during summer: when child gets more vitamin D from the sun
- Both worse with latitude
- Both vary with Ultraviolet light
- Both vary with time of year (more birth of autistics in March in Northern hemisphere)
- 2X more urban autism – less UVB in urban environments
- Both worse with pollution
- Both worse with increased clouds and rain
- Both worse with closely spaced pregnancies
- Autistics have abnormal immune response – similar to that of vitamin D deficiency
- Low levels of vitamin D in mother animals reduces brain function in offspring
- Vitamin deficient rat pups have similar brain abnormalities to that of human autistic children
- Autistic children get less vitamin D in their blood for the same amount of sun exposure
- The 4 males/1 female ratio - Note estrogen increases vitamin D in the brain (testosterone does not)
- Both worse in African Americans (A-A 2-3 increased autism rate)
- Both worse in Dark-skinned immigrants in Europe
- Note: All articles in Autism category
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