Study Finds Potential Link to Vitamin D Preventing Autism

Could Vitamin D reduce the risk of Autism? Researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute think that there might be a link.

Autism has been linked to more ‘causes’ than you can probably keep track of. After the total debunking of the vaccine-autism connection, it seems like every week there’s a new reason for this condition. From dad’s age to something in the environment, the potential culprits are span a range that could make you spin.

Even though there is no known cause as of yet, researchers are always hard at work trying to find one. The present study includes an analysis of more than 4,000 blood samples – from pregnant mums and their children. Researchers found that that when the mums were deficient in vitamin D their children had “significantly higher” scores on autism scales.

The 4,200 samples that were used for this research came from women and children already being monitored in the long-term “Generation R” study in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

If this research is correct, it wouldn’t be the first time that a vitamin had ties to a serious condition. Lead researcher Professor John McGrath said, “Just as taking folate in pregnancy has reduced the incidence of spina bifida, the results of this study suggest that prenatal vitamin D supplements may reduce the incidence of autism.”

This isn’t the first time that Professor McGrath has found a connection between vitamin D and a disease or condition. In previous research he found a possible link between low levels of the vitamin in neonatal blood samples and an increased chance of developing schizophrenia.

So, what is vitamin D and how exactly do you make sure that you’re getting enough of it when you’re pregnant?

Vitamin D is probably best known as that nutritional helper that builds and maintains healthy bones (it works along with calcium). Even though it’s possible to get some vitamin D from the foods that you eat, the sun is the best source. Foods such as eggs and fish naturally have the vitamin. Some kinds of milk and margarine have added D as well. Direct sun exposure is the top way for your body to get and use vitamin D. That means your skin needs to be exposed in order to get the benefits.

Before you run out and bake yourself, you need to weigh the risks and benefits of sun exposure. Exposing your bare skin to the sun seriously ups the risk of developing skin cancer. McGrath says, “We would not recommend more sun exposure, because of the increased risk of skin cancer in countries like Australia.” McGrath suggests, “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” (with the “risk factor” being an increased risk of children developing autism when their mum’s are low on D).

Keep in mind, this new research is only one study. Even though it does show some sort of link, it’s not conclusive and it’s not a “cure” for autism. When it comes down to it, expectant mums need to be up on all of their nutritional needs. If you’re lacking (or worried that your lacking) in any area, talk to your medical professional about supplements or a dietary plan.

It’s clear that this study gives all of us mums a ray of hope. But, it doesn’t mean that you should buy vitamin D by the barrel-load. More research is needed before anyone in the medical community gives this vitamin the okay when it comes to preventing autism.

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Erica Loop is a mum, parenting writer and educator with an MS in child development. Along with writing for websites such as PBS Parents,, Scary Mommy,, Modern Mom, and others, she also is the creator of a kids' activities and art blog.

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