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Vitamin D Council’s autism program

Posted on: May 31, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD


The Vitamin D Council’s free remote autism program is not only up and running, we now have some outcomes to report. First, as some readers may know, another paper appeared last month that recommended “urgent” research on the association of the autism epidemic with the vitamin D deficiency epidemic.

Kočovská E, Fernell E, Billstedt E, Minnis H, Gillberg C. Vitamin D and autism: Clinical review. Res Dev Disabil. 2012 Apr 20;33(5):1541-1550. [Epub ahead of print]

The senior author in the above review was Christopher Gillberg. I should say thee Christopher Gillberg, as he is famous as a prolific author, editor and the recipient of numerous awards. Dr. Gillberg is especially well known across the world for his autism research. When I saw his name, I knew it was just a matter of time before the entire theory was under the microscope, so to speak.

If you remember, we are offering a free autism program to help parents vigorously correct vitamin D deficiency in their children with autism. As long as the Council can afford it, everything is free for the families: the vitamin D blood tests, the vitamin D, the scales, and the help from me (If you’re interest in enrolling your own child, email us at [email protected]).

The entire goal is to raise vitamin D levels from the very low levels that we find initially (< 20 ng/ml, if they’ve never supplemented), to high normal ranges (around 80 ng/ml). The “normal” range for most labs is 30-100 ng/ml, so all the parents are doing is raising their children’s levels to the same levels some lifeguards have at the end of summer. With our help, the parents use a combination of sunlight (when it is available) and supplements to do so.

The most common problem we have run into is parent’s unwillingness to give enough vitamin D to their child to obtain high normal levels. Too often, the child’s pediatrician tells the parents that the dose is too high – in spite of the normal blood levels – and the parents withdraw from the program. We never give advice contrary to the child’s doctor; in fact, we try to work with the doctor when possible.

If you remember, for more than 30 years, most of the infants in East Germany received 600,000 IU every 3 months. Many had a total dose of 3.6 million units by age 18 months, with transitory mild high blood calcium being the only side effect in one-third of the infants. The authors commented on how healthy the infants appeared. While the East German doctors gave way too much vitamin D, it demonstrates that even infants tolerate high doses of vitamin D with few serious side effects. Again, our kids are all older, receive much less vitamin D and are maintained in the normal range.

Markestad T, Hesse V, Siebenhuner M, Jahreis G, Aksnes L, Plenert W, Aarskog D. Intermittent high-dose vitamin D prophylaxis during infancy: effect on vitamin D metabolites, calcium, and phosphorus. Am J Clin Nutr. 1987 Oct;46(4):652-8.

The second most common problem we have had is vitamin A. Vitamin A interferes with the action of vitamin D, probably at the receptor site.

Unfortunately, some autistic children have taken 50,000 or 100,000 IU of vitamin A repeatedly or take cod liver oil. As vitamin A has no known catabolic (breakdown) pathway in the human body, these children may have subclinical vitamin A toxicity and in theory, vitamin D might not help. I try it anyway, but it does not help very much. The parents ask how long it takes to get the excess vitamin A out of the system, and I have no answer to their question.

However, in the children who obtain the high normal blood levels and who have not taken vitamin A, the response has been very satisfying. I believe the vitamin D’s mechanisms of action in these autistic children is through a combination of its antioxidant capabilities, glutathione and superoxide dismutase upregulation, increased Tregs (cells that help prevent autoimmunity), increased production of the proteins that repair DNA, and reduction of inflammation via multiple mechanisms. I have sometimes found that levels of 75 ng/ml work in children while levels around 50 ng/ml do not. I can’t explain that and would welcome some theories.

Parents have reported that vitamin D may have beneficial effects in autism on meltdowns, tantrums and sleep. One mother, who works outside the home, was so thankful when her child no longer woke at 3 AM, wanting to play. Surprisingly, parents have reported that vitamin D also seems to benefit shyness, eye contact, speech and sometimes, compulsiveness. Several parents have commented on the neuromuscular improvements after vitamin D. Most of the children enrolled require around 5,000 IU/day to obtain a 25(OH)D of 80 ng/ml, but all are different. We try to use D-Plus as studies show that many autistic children are deficient in magnesium as well as zinc.

Our autism program has been a great success, personally rewarding for all of us here at the Council, and is ongoing. So, if you have a child with autism and want to participate in it, contact us at [email protected]itamindcouncil.org. As long as our money lasts, everything is free.

Editors note: This blog was updated on June 5, 2012, for clarity and formatting purposes.

3 Responses to Vitamin D Council’s autism program

  1. JBG

    I hope that sometime soon you will provide some initial numerical results for this forward-looking effort.

    Are there legal or other reasons why you decline parents’ offers to pay for good results obtained? Allowing ones able and eager to pay to do so would seem like a natural way to help provide the service to still more families that need it.

  2. John Cannell, MD

    I told them it was free and to turn around and take money didn’t seem right. Anyway, the parents I deal with are laden down with medical and other costs.


  3. [email protected]

    Congratulations, Doctor Cannell. In another 10 years millions of people from all over the world will thank you for your intuitive, visionary, coragious and revolutionary initiative. I thank you now!

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