A Scientific Americanarticle asks, "What if Vitamin D Deficiency is a Cause of Autism?" (1) How could vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy cause autism, a genetic disease? Indeed, five researchers at Harvard, led by Dr. Dennis Kinney, recently endorsed and modified the vitamin D theory of autism. (2)
Dr. Darryl Eyles, of the University of Queensland, added his name to growing list of scientists who agree that vitamin D deficiency plays an important role in autism. (3) Writing in Acta Paediatrica, arguably the most read pediatric journal in the world, Dr. Eyles praised the vitamin D theory of autism as being "parsimonious," with the animal studies he has conducted over the last decade.
For the last 15 years, geneticists have tried and failed to find a common structural genetic abnormality in autism. What they have found is evidence of genetic damage; the genetic code is not properly regulated in autism, with multiple genes not being expressed, probably due to an environmental injury. As Dr. Kinney reports, vitamin D's mechanism of action is protection of the genome with direct regulation more than 1,000 human genes.
If the gestational and early childhood vitamin D deficiency theory of autism is true, the tragedy is more poignant in that physicians could prevent the disease with adequate daily doses of vitamin D during pregnancy and early childhood. Just as important, vitamin D's mechanism of action implies a treatment effect in autistic children.
This month, Acta Paediatrica, published yet another article on vitamin D and autism. This paper is open access; the pdf is free to download. (4) In the paper, Dr. Cannell reviews the evidence of vitamin D's involvement in autism, including evidence published after his original 2007 paper. (5)
- Glaser G. What If Vitamin D Deficiency Is a Cause of Autism? Sci Amer April 24, 2009.
- Kinney DK, Barch DH, Chayka B, Napoleon S, Munir KM. Environmental risk factors for autism: do they help cause de novo genetic mutations that contribute to the disorder? Med Hypotheses 2010;74:102-6.
- Eyles DW. Vitamin D and Autism, Does skin colour modify risk? Acta Paediatr 2010 Mar 8.
- Cannell JJ. On the Aetiology of Autism. Acta Paediatrica. ISSN 0803–5253, May 2010.
- Cannell JJ. Autism and Vitamin D. Med Hypotheses 2008;70(4):750-9. Epub 2007 Oct 24.