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Study: High antibodies, low vitamin D levels in autistic children

Posted on: August 17, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD

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I could not be happier. Finally, researchers have taken my autism theory seriously and conducted actual research to see if the theory has any merit. I have waited five years for this paper, although I am acutely aware that one paper does not confirm the theory.

Drs Gehan Mostafa and Laila AL-Ayadhi of the Autism Research and Treatment Center at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia studied 50 autistic children, aged 5-12, during the summer, comparing them to 30 normal children.

Gehan A Mostafa and Laila Y AL-Ayadhi Reduced serum concentrations of 25-hydroxy vitamin D in children with autism: Relation to autoimmunity. Journal of Neuroinflammation 2012, 9:201 doi:10.1186/1742-2094-9-201 Published: 17 August 2012

First, they found that autistic children had much lower vitamin D levels than healthy children (P<0.001), 14 ng/ml versus 33 ng/ml. Eighty percent of the normal children had levels above 30 ng/ml, while only 12% of the autistic children had such levels. This occurred in spite of both groups having equal sun exposure and no vitamin D supplementation. This suggests the possibility that autistic children have a genetic abnormality, even if just a quantitative and not qualitative one, in some aspect of their vitamin D metabolism.

Second they found that 25(OH)D levels were highly negatively correlated with autism severity as measured by the Clinical Autism Rating Scale (P<0.001). This means the lower the vitamin D level, the worse the autism. The r value, a measure of correlation, was strong at -0.84.

Finally, they found that 70% of autistic children had antibodies “fighting” their own brain tissue (anti-MAG autoantibodies) and those antibodies were negatively correlated with vitamin D levels (P<0.001), the lower the vitamin D level, the higher the antibodies. In addition, these antibodies were higher in children with severe autism than in children with mild autism.

The authors conclude that their results “lend support to the hypothesis that autism is a vitamin D deficiency disorder.” I believe this paper, combined with the recent call for “urgent research” in the field of vitamin D and autism, written with senior author Christopher Gillberg of the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre in Sweden, will quicken the pace of research in the field.

Here at the Vitamin D Council, we continue our free autism clinic program (not research) to simply correct vitamin D deficiency in autistic children. So far, I am pleased with the results that parents’ report.

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