- Lack of vitamin D during pregnancy linked to autism, study shows.
- Vitamin D crucial to the development of teeth and bones.
- Vitamin D supplement is safe, cheap and publicly accessible – may reduce the prevalence of this risk factor.
A new study led by Professor John McGrath at Queensland Brain Institute found that there could be links in the lack of vitamin D in expecting mothers and autism. Autistic traits in children could be linked to the lack of vitamin D in pregnant women.
Vitamin D is a hormone that controls the calcium level in the blood and that is the reason why it is so crucial to your baby’s healthy development of teeth and bones. While the vitamin is found in some fruits and vegetables, it is mostly absorbed through the skin when exposed to sunlight.
The results of the study, which tested the blood samples of over 4000 pregnant women and mothers, found that those who were deficient in vitamin D had “significantly higher” scores on the autism scales, than those who were getting sufficient amounts of vitamin D.
Professor McGrath said that the study found pregnant women that were deficient in vitamin D were more likely to have children with autistic traits by the age of 6.
“Just as taking folate in pregnancy has reduced the incidence of spina bidida (a range of birth defects that affects the spinal cord), the results of this study suggest that prenatal vitamin D supplements may reduce the incidence of autism”, he said.
Firstly, if you’re not getting enough vitamin D, you may not be eating enough fruits and vegetables. Remember, you are now eating for two, so you have to take into consideration the nutrients you are giving your growing baby.
Secondly, don’t be afraid of some sun! How can such a natural resource be bad for you? Get out from under those dark covers and go for a stroll in the garden, feel the warmth of the suns rays on your skin and take in that beautiful vitamin D.
However, finding a vitamin D supplement might still be the way to go. Professor McGrath says that “vitamin D is a very safe, cheap, publicly acceptable supplement to take and reducing vitamin D deficiencies is so easy to do”.
“Maybe we could prevent serious mental disorders like autism by making sure women have optimal vitamin D during pregnancy”.
To put these finding in perspective, this is only an inkling of one of the hundreds of different mechanisms of which lead to autism. Professor Andrew Whitehouse from the Telethon Kids Institute says that while the study offers interesting possibilities, “we need to see this finding replicated”.