Case report: vitamin D supplementation improves symptoms of autism

Posted on: March 25, 2015   by  John Cannell, MD

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Finally, I’m not alone in saying that high doses of vitamin D can help some autistic children. Just recently, the prestigious journal, Pediatrics, published a case report from China in which high doses of vitamin D appeared to dramatically improve the core symptoms of autism.

Jia F, Wang B, Shan L, Xu Z, Staal WG, Du L. Core symptoms of autism improved after vitamin D supplementation. Pediatrics. 2015 Jan;135(1):e196-8.

A 32-month-old Chinese toddler displayed the typical symptoms of severe autism including self-injury, running in circles, not responding to his name, incontinence, and abnormal interest in smelling unusual objects. Before treatment with vitamin D, his scores on autism assessments, were 80 for the Autism Behavior Checklist (the score for a normal child should be < 53), 35 for the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (the score for a normal child should be < 30), and 6 for the Severity of Illness of Clinical Global Impression (the score for a normal child should be 1). His serum vitamin D level was 12.5 ng/mL.

The child was given vitamin D3 150,000 IU every month intramuscularly (IM) for two months and 400 IU/day orally for two months.

At 60 days, the patient’s parents reported a significant improvement in behavioral problems. Their child now responded when his name was called. He was no longer preoccupied with running in circles and his self-injurious behavior had almost stopped. He could now play with toys and actively asked his parents to hold him in their arms. He was no longer incontinent and his abnormal practice of smelling of objects was no longer present.

Laboratory tests revealed that his serum 25(OH)D had increased to 81.2 ng/mL. Serum calcium levels were normal. Reevaluation scores showed 39 (normal) for the Autism Behavior Checklist, 28 (normal) for Childhood Autism Rating Scale, and 4 (improved but still elevated) for the Severity of Illness of Clinical Global Impression.

I have treated about 100 children with autism with high doses of vitamin D. I wish I kept better records on the outcomes in these children but my impression is that 25% of them responded dramatically to high dose vitamin D, 50% responded significantly and 25% do not respond at all. I do not know why some children respond better than others and why some seemingly do not respond at all. I have a book coming out on the topic in the coming weeks.

If you want to administer high-dose vitamin D to your child, first test your child’s vitamin D level. I think it is particularly important that high doses of vitamin D be given with vitamin D’s co-nutrients (co-factors), which include at least 80/day mcg of vitamin K2, at least 125 mg/day of magnesium, 2 mg/day of boron and 10 mg/day zinc. To the best of my knowledge, there are only two formulas on the market that contain all of these co-factors in addition to vitamin D. The first is D3Plus (which should be available in a month) and my formula, Advanced D. You can also buy each co-nutrient separately at a high quality supplement company like Life Extension Foundation.

If you use D3Plus or Advanced D, you will have to cut the capsules open with scissors and dissolve the contents in a smoothie for young children who cannot swallow a capsule. I recommend autistic children start with a dose of about 1,600 IU/day (one D3Plus capsule) for children weighing less than 33 pounds, about 3,300 IU/day (two D3Plus capsules) for children weighing between 33 and 66 pounds, and about 5,000 IU/day (3 D3Plus capsules) for children weighing between 66 and 100 pounds.

After two or three months, have a 25(OH)D blood test done and adjust dose accordingly in order to obtain a 25(OH)D level of around 80 ng/ml. Most autistic children will need between 5,000 and 15,000 IU/day to achieve 25(OH)D levels of 80 ng/ml. If you try this protocol with an autistic child, please send us an email with the results, whether they are positive or negative.

3 Responses to Case report: vitamin D supplementation improves symptoms of autism

  1. rcbaker200@comcast.net

    I have 3 acquaintances who have grandchildren with autism treated by top subspecialists, and none has had a 25-hydroxyvitamin D level done. The facts regarding the exceedingly high rate of autism among children who immigrate at an early age from Somalia are very strong evidence in favor of Vitamin D insufficiency being an important component in autism, and there is much more evidence..

  2. Rebecca Oshiro

    This study is an important step in the right direction. Hopefully we’ll see more of these case reports. There is everything to gain and practically nothing to lose with this approach.

  3. BesteUP

    “The child was given vitamin D3 150,000 IU every month intramuscularly (IM) for two months and 400 IU/day orally for two months….
    …Laboratory tests revealed that his serum 25(OH)D had increased to 81.2 ng/mL. Serum calcium levels were normal.”

    Is vitamin K2 given to this child? If yes, how much per day?

    Thank you.

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