Vitamin D and Autism
Autism is not one condition or even a single end result of a particular cause. This is a diagnosis based on a group of symptoms, most notable being the severe developmental delay characterized by loss of speech, poor social and eye contact, and repetitive movements such as hand flapping or spinning, or a fascination with spinning things. There are often sensitivities to noise and challenges with focus or paying attention such that it seems these children are in a world of their own.
While we search for causes, and there will be many since this is a very broad group, we will find that toxins play a role for many, nutrient deficiencies play a role in many, genetic vulnerabilities play a part in many, but it’s not the genetics you may be thinking about. The genetic role is that of epigenetics, how the body responds to the environment. Vitamin D deficiency may have a special role in this aspect as we are now learning that vitamin D deficiency can affect over 1000 genetic loci.
Vitamin D interacts with the VDR (vitamin D receptor) in the nucleus of cells where it combines with another receptor, the retinoic acid X receptor. It is the interaction of this complex with small proteins known as VDRE (vitamin D responsive elements) that change the transcription of nearby genes.
Increase incidence of autism continues to rise. The most recent USA CDC report states we have now reached 1 in 50 when tracked through school age.
There is an interesting hypothesis that the increase in the incidence of autism has corresponded to the increasing vitamin D deficiency brought on by the recommendations by government and now most medical societies like the dermatologists and the academy of pediatrics.
Autism is more common in those with darker pigmented skin who live in northern areas. There was a small study where the autism rate for Ugandans living in Sweden was 15% of the births. We certainly know that the more pigment and the higher the latitude, the lower the vitamin D level is.
One thing is for certain. Vitamin D deficiency affects almost every one of us. This is a simple thing to fix as the supplementation with vitamin D3 is inexpensive and available everywhere. It may be time to reverse the dangerous trend of sun phobia and get ourselves and our children outdoors in the sun (avoid sunburn off course). Everyone should take vitamin D3 as a supplement.