Vitamin D Protects Against Autism

vitamin D and the sunshineThis new study by Dr. Ames and Rhonda Patrick demonstrates the impact of low vitamin D status on social behavior associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The hormones serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin are all activated by vitamin D (which itself is a hormone).

Vitamin D activates the enzyme TPH2 (tryptophan hydroxylase 2) that converts tryptophan to serotonin, the calming neurotransmitter in the brain. Vitamin D inhibits TPH1, which reduces serotonin in the gut and elsewhere, thus reducing inflammation.  The authors propose that in addition to vitamin D, moms and children should take extra tryptophan and omega-3 fatty acids to boost brain serotonin.  I couldn’t agree more.  In pregnancy you should absolutely take 5000 IU’s of vitamin D daily along with your prenatal vitamins and omega-3 supplements, and with this study’s information, I would add tryptophan to that list.


Below is the abstract which is technical and detailed but best read as written:


“Serotonin and vitamin D have been proposed to play a role in autism; however, no causal mechanism has been established. Here, we present evidence that vitamin D hormone (calcitriol) activates the transcription of the serotonin-synthesizing gene tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2) in the brain at a vitamin D response element (VDRE) and represses the transcription of TPH1 in tissues outside the blood-brain barrier at a distinct VDRE. The proposed mechanism explains 4 major characteristics associated with autism: the low concentrations of serotonin in the brain and its elevated concentrations in tissues outside the blood-brain barrier; the low concentrations of the vitamin D hormone precursor 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D3]; the high male prevalence of autism; and the presence of maternal antibodies against fetal brain tissue. Two peptide hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, are also associated with autism and genes encoding the oxytocin-neurophysin I preproprotein, the oxytocin receptor, and the arginine vasopressin receptor contain VDREs for activation. Supplementation with vitamin D and tryptophan is a practical and affordable solution to help prevent autism and possibly ameliorate some symptoms of the disorder.—Patrick, R. P., Ames, B. N. Vitamin D hormone regulates serotonin synthesis. Part 1: relevance for autism”


You can read more of this study here…



Dr. Paul

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