Autism also known as autistic spectrum disorder is a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. Autism affects many parts of the brain; how this occurs is not understood. Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child’s life. Although early behavioral or cognitive intervention can help children gain self-care, social, and communication skills, there is no known cure. Not many children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, though some become successful. About a third to a half of individuals with autism do not develop enough natural speech to meet their daily communication needs. The main goals of treatment are to lessen associated deficits and family distress, and to increase quality of life and functional independence. No single treatment is best and treatment is typically tailored to the child’s needs.
Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine” vitamin because it is formed in the body by the action of the sun’s ultraviolet rays on the skin. The fat-soluble vitamin is converted in the kidneys to the hormone calcitrol, which is actually the most active form of vitamin D. The effects of this hormone are targeted at the intestines and bones. Vitamin D is important for growth and development of bones and teeth. Vitamin D has been used in the treatment of rickets, osteoporosis, Crohn’s disease, and has been found to reduce the incidence of breast cancer. Vitamin D deficiency can result from inadequate dietary intake, insufficient exposure to sunlight, which reduces the body’s synthesis of vitamin D, and kidney or liver malfunctions, which inhibit the conversion of vitamin D to its metabolically active forms.
A recent study reviewed blood work of 117 out-patient psychiatric subjects. The researchers measured the patients’ serum vitamin D and parathyroid levels. They discovered that the average serum level of vitamin D was 45nmol/l, which is much lower than the level found in healthy populations. Patients diagnosed with ADHD had much lower than normal levels of parathyroid hormone. The researchers also found that having a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia predicted low levels of serum vitamin D. It is suspected that in both autism and schizophrenia, vitamin D deficiency may not only be a predisposing developmental factor but also relate to the adult patients’ psychiatric state. This was further supported when some patients with vitamin D deficiency underwent vitamin D treatment experienced an improved psychiatric state.1
1 Humble MB, Gustafsson S, Bejerot S. Low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) among psychiatric out-patients in Sweden: Relations with season, age, ethnic origin and psychiatric diagnosis. J Steriod Biochem Mol Biol. Mar2010.