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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

New paper: Autism, will vitamin D treat core symptoms?

I have just produced my fourth peer reviewed article on vitamin D and autism while with the Vitamin D Council. This one makes the case that vitamin D supplements, if given in adequate dose and at the right time, may both prevent and treat autism.

Cannell JJ. Autism, will vitamin D treat core symptoms? Med Hypotheses. 2013 May 29.

In the paper, which contains references for all the statements below, I make so many points. Follow me through 16 of them:

  1. I have noticed a seasonality of symptoms only in autistic children who spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer, such as those with families who have a swimming pool, indicating a seasonal factor. A Japanese case report documented the same. Autistic symptoms appear to be better in August than in February in such children. If so, identification of the seasonal factor may help treat autism.
  2. Any such factor must have three characteristics:
    1. It must fit the curve. The factor must have increased or decreased remarkably in the last 30 years as autism has skyrocketed
    2. It must have clear effects on the brain.
    3. It must explain epidemiological facts of autism.
  3. Studies show that 25(OH)D levels fell dramatically from 1994 to 2004. More than 60% of US children had insufficient 25(OH)D levels in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2001-2004. Sun avoidance became common during the last 30 years; thus vitamin D fits the curve.
  4. Test tube and animal experiments provide compelling data for activated vitamin D’s role in brain proliferation (growth), differentiation (specialization), neurotrophism (growth factors), neuroprotection, neurotransmission, and neuroplasticity (how the brain changes due to disease, experience, learning, and treatment).
  5. Vitamin D also has anti-inflammatory actions and anti-autoimmune effects. It increases the seizure threshold, increases the percentage of T-regulatory cells, protects mitochondria from oxidation, upregulates glutathione, and upregulates at least five DNA repair proteins. Thus vitamin D has profound effects on the brain.
  6. The epidemiology of autism includes findings that autism is more common in urban areas, high air pollution areas, cloudy areas, in people with dark skin, and in areas with lower UVB surface radiation. These findings all correlate with increased vitamin D deficiency. Thus vitamin D explains the epidemiology of autism.
  7. The high heritability of autism (its genetic linkage) does not preclude a gene environmental interaction. Most autism geneticists now admit such an interaction is likely.
  8. Autism is not a subtle disease and thus the diagnosis would not have been missed in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. This means the epidemic is real and not just due to better detection. To further clarify this point, many parents these days spend thousands of dollars to find treatments for their autistic child. If autism was truly prevalent 40-plus years ago, parents would have gone the same lengths then as they do now. But this wasn’t the case.
  9. Four studies have looked at vitamin D levels in autistic children or their mothers and all have found low levels (<30 ng/ml) in autistic children.
  10. One study found that 25(OH)D levels were inversely and strongly correlated with scores on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (P <0.001).
  11. There is evolving evidence that autism is an autoimmune disorder. We know vitamin D plays a role in many autoimmune disorders. For example, vitamin D has been found to have a treatment effect in some autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
  12. A recent review of the developmental literature concluded that autism is not a disorder that is evident from the earliest months of life. Rather, the review concluded it is a disorder with a gradual onset of symptoms beginning during the first two to three years of life.
  13. The pathophysiology of autism is compatible with a theory that the environmental insult that interacts with genetic susceptibility occurs during the first 12 -24 months of life and not exclusively during pregnancy.
  14. Most toddlers in their second and third years of life have no known sources of vitamin D. Studies show many or most do not drink milk, avoid the sun and few toddlers take any form of supplement.
  15. The early childhood vitamin D deficiency theory of autism could be easily studied by seeing if toddlers who are supplemented with vitamin D have lower rates of autism.
  16. All this means that vitamin D may have a treatment effect in some autistic children. That has been my experience.

If you want a PDF copy of my paper, email vitamindcouncil@vitamindcouncil.org and request one.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

3 Responses to New paper: Autism, will vitamin D treat core symptoms?

  1. Mary says:

    Dr. Cannell,
    I have seen you mention that you see improvements in autistic children treated with Vitamin D when their blood level of 25(OH) reached or exceeded 75 ng/ml, but not at 50ng/ml. I wonder what effect combining Vitamin D therapy with Vitamin K2 has on these kids. Does Vitamin K2 change the overall effectiveness or the blood level at which improvements occurs? Also, could Vitamin K2 make the therapy more effective for kids who have previously had large doses of Vitamin A?

    Thank you!

  2. alan@alanroth.net says:

    I find it intriguing that the group treating autistic children for parasites now has 95 children completely free of the autism diagnosis. For many of those children the treatment has taken about a year to fully remove the symptoms. It is a very demanding and rigorous treatment and families need to be strong to succeed. Fortunately, many parents of autistic children are very dedicated to their children’s health.
    I don’t find this at all in conflict with your findings about the positive role of vitamin D. I think vitamin D fortifies the immune system to ward off the parasite infestation. However, the treatment effect of vitamin D may be mild as are a number of other treatments that don’t deal directly with the parasites. Any improvement should be lauded but to rid the body of all symptoms, it is probably best to know the cause of symptoms and make that the target. The damage from parasites appears to be the toxic waste excreted by the parasites.
    I realize that this group is operating outside the realm of organized medical research and so is probably seen as not worthy of regard. However, it’s hard to argue with success. They apparently keep good records and are open about what works and what doesn’t work, admitting the failures along the way. There’s no big money to be made by what they are doing and they seem to be dedicated to helping others. It would be great if they could see the advantages of vitamin D in preventing autism as I think they would become outspoken advocates of vitamin D.

  3. Colleenhf says:

    Alan, where are they studying a parasite connection and what is the parasite? Thanks..