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Study links vitamin D deficiency to autism

By Tim Sandle     Dec 20, 2016 in Science
Children who are born to women deficient in vitamin D, at 20 weeks, are more likely to show signs of autism by the time they reach the age of six, according to a new study from Australia.
The findings are based on a study of 4,200 women and their children in the Netherlands, with the data drawn from the so-called "Generation R" study. (Generation R is a prospective, population based cohort study from fetal life until young adulthood in a multi-ethnic urban population in Rotterdam, the Netherlands). During the course of pregnancy vitamin D levels were measured. Women deemed to be deficient in the vitamin had blood levels below 25.0 nmols. Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble compounds responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate and zinc.
In a research note, the scientist in charge of the study, Professor John McGrath stated: "This study provides further evidence that low vitamin D is associated with neurodevelopmental disorders."
He also added, as a note of caution: "We would not recommend more sun exposure, because of the increased risk of skin cancer in countries like Australia.”
To avoid sun exposure risk, the academic says: “Instead, it’s feasible that a safe, inexpensive and publicly accessible vitamin D supplement in at-risk groups may reduce the prevalence of this risk factor."
The research, according to Israel National News, stems from previous studies that have shown vitamin D can assist with the treatment of some children who are on the autism spectrum. The previous and new findings suggest that Vitamin D is important for maintaining healthy bones and, it now seems, for brain growth.
Commenting on the research for The Guardian, Professor Andrew Whitehouse from the Telethon Kids Institute, supports the taking of vitamin D during pregnancy and he suggests the results of this study are not totally surprising. However, he adds a note of caution that the findings are not wholly conclusive and need to be placed into perspective.
Professor Whitehouse comments: “There are likely dozens, if not hundreds, of different mechanisms that can lead to autism. Now this study gives us an inkling of one possible mechanism but before we think about anything we need to see a replication of this finding.”
The new study has been published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. The research is titled “Gestational vitamin D deficiency and autism-related traits: the Generation R Study.”
More about Autism, Vitamin d, Vitamins, Learning, Psychiatry
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