Vitamin D Deficiency is Linked to Autism

Dear Dr. Cannell:

Anything new on your theory that vitamin D is involved in autism?

Sally, New York

Dear Sally:

Science News reported that two Swedish doctors recently proposed vitamin D deficiency is linked to autism.

Doctors eye vitamin D link to autism

Another article looked at the amazingly high rate of autism in dark-skinned immigrants in Minnesota.

A mysterious connection: autism and Minneapolis’ Somali children

Of course, the vitamin D theory of autism, first published in this newsletter in May of 2007 and subsequently published in Medical Hypothesis in October of 2007, predicts exactly such a dramatic increase in autism in the children of dark-skinned immigrants.

Furthermore, I continue to get reports from parents with autistic children that adequate doses of vitamin D sometimes has a treatment effect in autistic children, mainly younger children who developed signs of autism around the age of weaning, improving repetitive behavior, sleep disorders, and screaming spells.

In rats, pups born to deficient mothers can regain some brain function if they are started on vitamin D at birth. Unfortunately, the recovery in rat pups brain damaged by maternal vitamin D deficiency is never complete.

I have come up with a protocol for diagnosing and treating vitamin D deficiency in autistic children but it can be used in any child. Remember, the worst thing that can happen is that children will have stronger bones:

1. Advise parents to stop giving children all preformed retinol, such as cod liver oil, and all vitamins or supplements containing retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate. Preformed retinol antagonizes the action of vitamin D, probably at the vitamin D receptor site. Beta carotene does not have this same effect but children only need extra beta carotene if their diet is poor in colorful fruits and vegetables, dairy products, or fortified breakfast cereals.

2. Order a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D [25(OH)D] blood test. Do not order a 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D as it is often elevated in vitamin D deficiency and will mislead you.

3. If the 25(OH)D level is less than 70 ng/ml, the mid range of American references labs (30 – 100 ng/ml), give your child vitamin D3 supplements. Generally children require 1,000 IU per 25 pounds of body weight per day. However, great individual variation exists and autistic children need to be retested and the dose adjusted about every month until levels are at least 50 ng/ml in healthy children and at least 70 ng/ml in any child with autism, diabetes, frequent infections, or any chronic illness.

4. Test for 25(OH)D every month and treat with enough vitamin D until 25(OH)D levels are stable. Vitamin D toxicity has never been reported, in adults or children, with 25(OH)D levels below 200 ng/ml.

As far as the cause of idiopathic autism, I’m more convinced my theory is true than ever, so I wrote a poem of sorts.

To an Older God

Long before our current gods, the people worshiped an older god, the Sun God, their first God. They knew life receded when she receded and returned when she returned and called her Amaterasu and Liza and Surya and Ra and Apollo and Helios and Sol and many other names, but dared not look upon her face knowing the Sun God blinds those so arrogant. Pregnant women lay in the sun, held their infants up to the sun, and sent young children to play under the sun. The Sun God’s blessing was calcitriol, which she carefully deposited into the tiniest of developing brains. With it, the children waxed lean and strong and brown with vibrant brains for calcitriol, the Sun God’s gift, orchestrated brain growth.

Then, new priests of science and medicine, told the people the Sun God was only a star, one of trillions, nothing special. Great temples called hospitals and research institutes arose, which admitted only filtered sunlight and where the people offered sacrifices to the gods of science and medicine, sacrifices that enriched the new priests. Then, twenty years ago, the new priests of dermatology told the people to shun the Sun God. “Banish her from your lives,” they said, “She is evil.” The people listened to the new priests and kept their pregnant women out of the Sun Gods warmth, and told their children she was wicked. The people stayed inside, their children with them and traveled behind glass in their cars and wore sunblock and sunhats to keep the Sun God away.

The Sun God grew vengeful. She withdrew her gift of calcitriol. Without it, fetal brains grew without a grower, sang the song of development without a conductor. The infants cried and would not look into their mother’s eyes and the children rocked for hours and banged their heads and couldn’t sleep and threw appalling tantrums. The people brought their brain-damaged children to see the new priests and sacrificed dearly, but all the people’s offerings were in vain. The new gods of science and medicine could do nothing.

For the Sun God had sent a plague and her wrath was upon the people. A great wailing arose in the houses and a gnashing of teeth and tears of anguish, as the people tasted the bitterness of autism.

John Cannell, MD
vitamindcouncil.org

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