Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy linked to autism

Research has found a lack of the vitamin during gestation gives the unborn child a higher chance of having autism

Autuism has been linked to a vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy, Australian researchers have found. Pregnant women with low levels at 20 weeks are more likely to have a child with autistic traits by the age of six. These findings have led to calls for widespread use of the vitamin, just as taking folate is used to reduce the chances of spina bifida. Vitamin D is vital for maintaining healthy bones, with evidence also suggesting it promotes brain growth.

The study was led by Professor John McGrath from the University of Queensland’s Brain Institure, alongside Dr Henning Tiemeier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands. It examined 4,200 blood samples and closely monitored pregnant women and their children in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Those samples with less than 25.0 nmols. of vitamin D were considered to be deficient. Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that can affect how an individual relates to their environment and other people.

“We would not recommend more sun exposure, because of the increased risk of skin cancer in countries like Australia,” McGrath said. “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.”

Deficiency has previously been linked to different conditions including asthma and reduced bone density. Earlier this year, a separate Australian study showed vitamin D was important not just during pregnancy, but for the first decade of a child’s life.