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Is my autistic son suffering from vitamin D toxicity?

Posted on: July 11, 2011   by  John Cannell, MD

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Dear Dr. Cannell,

My son James weighs 48lb, he is 7 yrs old. He had autistic symptoms for almost 5 years (first noticed when he was 2 yrs old). I initially started him on 2,000 IU last November after he caught the flu. Two weeks later, I noticed improvements in areas of social interaction, verbalization. I then increased his dosage to 5,000 IU per your recommendation, and he got better.

His progress has been so great that his kindergarten teacher and Speech Therapist have recommended that he exit the Early Intervention Program.

He is more social, making friends easily, participating in cooperative play, and soon to be in a regular classroom. I think it might be bad luck to say he is cured. Is that possible in a genetic disease? A friend told me he must never have had autism but whatever it was, I don’t want it back. I remember what he was like, and me, too. No thanks.

I’m writing because my son’s pediatrician just called and told me James’s 25(OH) level was 122. He believes he must be toxic because of that level and wants me to stop giving him all vitamin D supplements and recheck his vitamin D level next month. James feels great and shows no signs of toxicity.

What should I do?

Mary, New York

Dear Mary,

That is wonderful news about your son. He is not toxic. However, he should reduce his vitamin D to 2,000 IU/day and recheck his blood level in a month. Some of his symptoms may come back; I don’t know but do not fear, if the symptoms return the vitamin D will take care of them. It appears to me that high dose vitamin D controls, rather than “cures,” some cases of autism. If his level in a month is below 100 ng/ml, the pediatrician will be happy as that is the upper range of normal vitamin D levels.

Yes, autism is a genetic disease, so how can vitamin D treat it? I suspect that one of vitamin D’s many duties in the body is to protect your genome from mutations, organizing the correction of random and point mutations when they occur. Think of your son as having DNA that is unlikely to function properly with lower levels of vitamin D. How long his DNA will be sensitive to low vitamin D, I don’t know.

An immediate question is how much vitamin D to give him now. You want to give him the lowest dose that controls his symptoms. I suspect that he will end up needing 3,000 to 4,000 IU per day to maintain his 25(OH)D around 80-90 ng/ml.

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