Is a lack of Vitamin D linked to autism?
Getting a dose of vitamin D is often as simple as basking in the rays of the sun. But as Scientific American noted, the lack of this crucial nutrient, often called the sunshine vitamin, may be related to autism, which has seen an alarming spike in cases in recent years.
Low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy and breastfeeding may be connected to autism later in life, according to a study published in the Journal of Endocrinology by Caitlin Wyrwoll at the University of Western Australia, as Cosmos Magazine noted.
Earlier studies in Scotland and the Netherlands also found that lower levels of maternal Vitamin D during the first trimester of pregnancy may be linked with a heightened risk of autism in children but this latest study involved rats. Scientists examined changes in brain function and social behaviors of adult rats, who had been born to mothers lacking vitamin D. Rats with deficient mothers displayed abnormal social behaviors, altered brain chemistry and impaired learning and memory, all of which are consistent with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
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“Our work reinforces that vitamin D levels in early life influence brain development and can impact on how the brain functions in later life,” Wyrwoll told Cosmos. “We know that early life environment can be a powerful determinant of health outcomes in offspring and, although this is a rat study, these data indicate that vitamin D levels during pregnancy are important for brain development, and may point to a contributing factor in the development of neurodevelopmental conditions, such as ASD.”
While further studies must be done to confirm the relevance of this newest research to humans, many suggest the link has credence.
Supporters of this theory, as the Scientific American cites, note a 2007 review by Allan Kalueff, a researcher at Tulane University, in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, which also came to the conclusion that vitamin D during gestation and early infancy was essential for “normal brain functioning.”