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Maternal vitamin D deficiency linked with autism risk in children

Posted on: December 15, 2016   by  Vitamin D Council


A new study published by the journal Molecular Psychology suggests that gestational vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of autism-related traits in offspring.

A large, population-based cohort study recently aimed to determine whether a relationship exists between gestational vitamin D deficiency and the development of autism-related traits in children at 6 years of age. A total of 4220 mothers and their children had their 25(OH)D levels measured using the serum analysis from the mothers at mid-gestation and from the cord blood of the infants. Those with vitamin D levels below 10 ng/ml (25 nmol/l) were considered deficient, while those with levels > 20 ng/ml (50 nmol/l) were considered sufficient. The presence of autism-related traits was determined using the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), a 18 question survey filled out by the parents when their children reached about 6 years of age. A higher SRS score indicates a more severe degree of social impairment.

The researchers found that children who’s mothers were vitamin D deficient presented significantly higher SRS scores than those who were vitamin D sufficient (p < 0.01). These findings persisted when the researchers restricted to children with European ancestry and when adjusting for genetic data and season of blood sampling.

The researchers concluded,

“Gestational vitamin D deficiency was associated with autism-related traits in a large population-based sample.”

They went on to state,

“Because gestational vitamin D deficiency is readily preventable with safe, cheap and accessible supplements, this candidate risk factor warrants closer scrutiny.”


A A E Vinkhuyzen et al. Gestational vitamin D deficiency and autism-related traits: the Generation R Study. Molecular Psychiatry, 2016.

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