Vitamin D Newsletter

Newsletter

Vitamin D and Autism

Sally from New York writes:

Dr. Cannell:

Anything new on your theory that vitamin D is involved in autism?

Dr. Cannell replies:

Science News reported that two Swedish doctors recently proposed vitamin D deficiency is linked to autism: Doctors eye vitamin D link to autism.

I continue to get reports from parents with autistic children that adequate doses of vitamin D sometimes has a modest treatment effect in autistic children.

Another article looked at the amazingly high rate of autism in dark-skinned immigrants in Minnesota: A mysterious connection: autism and Minneapolis' Somali children. Of course, the vitamin D theory of autism, first published our May 2007 Vitamin D Newsletter and subsequently published in Medical Hypothesis in October of 2007, predicts exactly such a dramatic increase in autism in the children of dark-skinned immigrants. Furthermore, I continue to get reports from parents with autistic children that adequate doses of vitamin D sometimes has a modest treatment effect in autistic children, mainly younger children who developed signs of autism around the age of weaning, improving repetitive behavior, sleep disorders, and screaming spells. In rats, pups born to deficient mothers can regain some brain function if they are started on vitamin D at birth. Unfortunately, the recovery in rats is never complete. I have come up with a protocol for diagnosing and treating vitamin D deficiency in autistic children but it can be used in any child (remember, the worst thing that can happen is that a child will have stronger bones):

•Advise parents to stop giving children all pre-formed retinol, such as cod liver oil, and all vitamins or supplements containing retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate. Preformed retinol antagonizes the action of vitamin D, probably at the vitamin D receptor site. Beta carotene does not have this same effect but children only need extra beta carotene if their diet is poor in colorful fruits and vegetables, dairy products, or fortified breakfast cereals.

•Order a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D [25(OH)D] blood test. Do not order a 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D as it is often elevated in vitamin D deficiency and will mislead you.

•If the 25(OH)D level is less than 70 ng/mL, the mid range of American references labs (30–100 ng/mL), give your child vitamin D3 supplements. Generally children require 1,000 IU per 25 pounds of body weight per day. However, great individual variation exists and autistic children need to be retested and the dose adjusted about every month until levels are at least 50 ng/mL in healthy children and at least 70 ng/mL in any child with autism, diabetes, frequent infections, or any chronic illness.

•Test for 25(OH)D every month and treat with enough vitamin D until 25(OH)D levels are stable. Vitamin D toxicity has never been reported, in adults or children, with 25(OH)D levels below 200 ng/mL.

Page last edited: 20 July 2011