A researcher from the US is advancing the controversial hypothesis that autism may be related to a vitamin D deficiency during foetal development and early childhood and that inadequate amounts of the vitamin in pregnant women and young children could be the elusive factor explaining the rising rate of autism.
The evidence for such a link is circumstantial but autism rates do appear to have mirrored medical advice given to the public since the late 1980s to avoid exposure to bright sunshine.
It is known that vitamin D is converted by the body into a steroid hormone and it has been found to influence brain development in animals. If the level of this vitamin is too low, whatever brain development is linked to it will be skewed.
Many experts are calling the proposed autism/vitamin D link speculative, but the idea is lent support by other research showing that a vitamin D deficiency may also be a cause of many diverse diseases, from MS to cancer.
For an exposition on the Vitamin D theory of autism see the lengthy article by Dr John Cannell on the Vitamin D council's website.
First Published in September 2007
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