Posted on Dec 22, 2016, 6 a.m.
A recent study found that women with low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to babies with traits of autism.
New research has found that low vitamin D is associated with neurodevelopmental disorders and that for pregnant women at 20 weeks' gestation, if their vitamin D levels are low, there is a higher likelihood that they may have a child with autistic traits that will surface by the age of six.
The study was led by Professor John McGrath of the Brain Institute at the University of Queensland and also involved Dr Henning Tiemeier of the Netherlands’ Erasmus Medical Centre. Approximately 4,200 blood samples taken from pregnant women and their children were closely monitored as part of the "Generation R", a long-term study in The Netherlands.
Professor McGrath stated that similar to pregnant women taking folate to reduce spina bifida, the results of this particular study is suggestive that taking prenatal vitamin D supplements may reduce the possibility of autism.
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, describes the lifelong developmental disabilities that include the inability to interact socially, communicate with other people, or fully comprehend the world.
Vitamin D is vital for the maintenance of healthy bones and many other health issues, and now there is solid evidence linking it to brain growth. Vitamin D normally comes from sun exposure, but also is found in certain foods and in supplements.
Professor McGrath said that they do not recommend additional sun exposure, because of the increased risk of skin cancer. However, it is possible that an inexpensive, safe, and publicly accessible supplement of vitamin D may likely reduce the prevalence of this risk factor.
A A E Vinkhuyzen et al. Gestational vitamin D deficiency and autism-related traits: the Generation R Study, Molecular Psychiatry (2016). DOI: 10.1038/mp.2016.213