Autism rates have risen from one in 10,000 children 30 years ago to one in 50 today, according to the CDC.1
That’s a jump of 20,000%.
During the same time period, one vitamin deficiency has increased dramatically as well.2
Now, two new studies have linked the two trends.
Researchers at the University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute studied blood samples from over 4,200 pregnant women and the children born from their pregnancies.
They analyzed the samples for vitamin D. And they tested the children for autism spectrum disorder. They found that vitamin D-deficient mothers were almost four times as likely to have autistic children.
Dr. John McGrath is a professor of epidemiology and developmental neurobiology at the University of Queensland. He led the research.
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“The result of this study suggests that prenatal vitamin D supplements may reduce the incidence of autism,” Dr. McGrath said. The research was recently published in Molecular Psychiatry.3
In another recent study, scientists gave vitamin D supplements or a placebo to 109 autistic children for four months. The children ranged in age from 3 to 10.
The researchers reported that “autism symptoms of the children improved significantly” in the group given vitamin D. The placebo group showed no improvement. The study recently was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.4
The children were given 300 IUs of vitamin D per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of bodyweight daily, up to 5,000 IUs.
The studies are strong evidence that vitamin D both prevents and treats autism.
Why Vitamin D Fights Autism
Researchers believe vitamin D increases production of serotonin. It’s a chemical neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, sleep, blood clotting, digestion, memory, and other functions. It’s also necessary for normal brain development.
Serotonin is critical to brain cell growth. A shortage of it can lead to many of the classic symptoms of autism. They include lack of impulse control and inability to develop socialization skills.5
How to Make Sure You Have Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D is now the most common nutritional deficiency in both children and adults.6
The British Medical Journal reports that 40% of adults over 50 don’t get enough vitamin D. About half of children are deficient.
In light of the new findings linking lack of vitamin D to autism, it’s crucial that pregnant women and children get enough of the nutrient. But vitamin D is important to everybody’s health. Besides autism, vitamin D deficiency is linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and osteoporosis.7
Have your doctor check your vitamin D level. The optimal range is 50-80 ng/mL.8 If you test low, there are three ways you can naturally increase your levels:9
- Get 20 minutes of sunlight each day with your arms and legs exposed. You don’t have to do it all in one session. It’s best to get sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.10
- Increase your intake of foods high in vitamin D. They include anchovies, wild-caught salmon, pastured eggs, mushrooms, grass-fed beef, liver, and pork.11
- Take a vitamin D3 supplement. We recommend a dosage of 5,000 IUs a day.12
After a month of getting more sunlight, eating vitamin D-rich foods, or taking a supplement, ask your doctor to test you again to make sure your levels have increased to at least 50 ng/mL.