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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.

Vitamin D and autism: a parsimonious theory

Albert Einstein once said that “Everything should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Said in another way, and to quote Sir Isaac Newton, “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes.” That means that the theory that can explain the most facts is the best theory, the most parsimonious theory.

So must it be for the repeated finding of elevated mercury levels in the hair of children with autism. The most recent study, by the incredibly prolific Dr. David Geier and colleagues, found not only elevated hair mercury levels in 18 young autistic children, but that those levels correlated with the severity of autism, to the tune of a relatively high correlation coefficient (R=.58).

Geier DA, Kern JK, King PG, Sykes LK, Geier MR.Hair toxic metal concentrations and autism spectrum disorder severity in young children. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012 Dec 6;9(12):4486-97.

However, the authors must not have read Einstein or Newton, as they did not include all the possibilities in their explanation of possibilities, nor did they try to parsimoniously explain their findings. Instead, they stuck to the herd dogma, which is that autistic children must have excessive mercury exposure compared to other children. However, another possibility, one they did not discuss, was that autistic children are exposed to the same amount of mercury as other children, but autistic children have impaired ability to catabolize, or remove, mercury from their body.

Mercury is eliminated in the body by glutathione, an antioxidant that binds it and then transports it to the kidney for elimination.

Schläwicke Engström K, Strömberg U, Lundh T, Johansson I, Vessby B, Hallmans G, Skerfving S, Broberg K. Genetic variation in glutathione-related genes and body burden of methylmercury. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Jun;116(6):734-9

And what steroid hormone upregulates or increases glutathione? Vitamin D does.

Garcion E, Wion-Barbot N, Montero-Menei CN, Berger F, Wion D. New clues about vitamin D functions in the nervous system. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Apr;13(3):100-5. Review.

So the possibility Dr. Geier and colleagues overlooked is that autistic children have impaired abilities to remove mercury from their bodies, thus explaining their elevated hair mercury levels, an explanation that is parsimonious with the vitamin D theory of autism.

Dr. Geier was pleased with an R value of .58, but that is nothing compared to the recently  discovered R value in the relationship of vitamin D levels to autism rating scale severity (R=-.84) or the R value of anti-neural antibodies to 25(OH)D levels (R=.-86).

Mostafa GA, Al-Ayadhi LY. Reduced serum concentrations of 25-hydroxy vitamin D in children with autism: relation to autoimmunity. J Neuroinflammation. 2012 Aug 17;9:201.

The sages said to keep it simple and assign the same cause to a variety of different facts. If you know of a fact that the vitamin D theory of autism cannot explain, let me know. The vitamin D theory remains parsimonious, and thus the vitamin D theory of autism is alive and well, at least according to the writings of Einstein and Newton.

  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.
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5 Responses to Vitamin D and autism: a parsimonious theory

  1. Rita and Misty says:

    A Vitamin D study to test and prove the case for autism? I think it is possible.

    Autism fascinates me as my son was a preemie baby, born with jaundice in the month of March. And, I know from firsthand experience that increasing one’s Vitamin D levels can indeed have a positive bearing upon this condition.

    But science demands research, rather than personal experience, so I am constantly told. And since I am not a scientific researcher, I am certain that I do not fully realize all the intricacies demanded in creating a successful study. (I wish I did, and I wish I could create some successful studies, but I digress here…)

    It does seem to me, though, that there is now the possibility of testing the vitamin d theory with respect to autism.

    A recent study completed at Yale University indicated that by examining the placenta at birth, those children who are shown to have increased numbers of trophoblast-inclusions are at risk for developing autism. Researchers are hoping that this discovery will lead to early intervention and an improved quality of life as a result of this test.

    I wonder if it is possible for a Vitamin D study to be devised to see if high doses of Vitamin D administered soon after birth to babies born with an increased numbers of trophoblast-inclusions would subsequently eliminate the condition of autism.? (I feel l must apologize if my terminology if off here; again, I am not a scientific researcher)

    I would love to hear thoughts from those in the field of research.


    From Yale University (April 25, 2013):


    “Currently, the best early marker of autism risk is family history. Couples with a child with autism are nine times more likely to have another child with autism. Kliman said that when these at-risk families have subsequent children they could employ early intervention strategies to improve outcomes. ‘Regrettably couples without known genetic susceptibility must rely on identification of early signs or indicators that may not overtly manifest until the child’s second or third year of life,’ said Kliman.

    ‘I hope that diagnosing the risk of developing autism by examining the placenta at birth will become routine, and that the children who are shown to have increased numbers of trophoblast inclusions will have early interventions and an improved quality of life as a result of this test,’ Kliman added.”

  2. IAW says:

    Perhaps if the people (researchers/doctors) at Yale gave the mothers enough Vitamin D during pregnancy then there would be no “trophoblast-inclusions” at all!

  3. Rita and Misty says:

    Greetings IAW~~Thank you for your comment!!!

    I agree 200% with your statement. As a matter of fact, I posted the below-bracketed comment on an earlier blog on autism from March 20th–my birthday, BTW…thank goodness my mom believed in roasting me in the sun :)

    (NOTE from me to Drs. Cannell & Grant, VDC staff and members: How I wish that someone here would consider checking the 25(OH)D levels of expectant mothers and treat for deficiency…better yet: treat to raise vitamin d serum level to 50 ng/ml…but this might just be too simple a solution, huh?…very frustrating…)

    However, it is very true that science demands research. And, I do think that this Yale study now paves the way for a successful vitamin d study on autism…as by examining the placenta, researchers will know exactly which babies will have a likelihood of developing autism.

    This is an exciting time to be studying vitamin d with respect to autism. (at least in my opinion).

    Be well!

  4. Rita and Misty says:

    Yes there are IRB hurdles to jump over..and perhaps “high doses” of Vitamin D by IRB standards would be “really low doses” by those knowledgeable in Vitamin D research..but it is a start…

    There has to be a starting point.

    This placenta study should at the very least open the door to having such babies administered the 25(OH)D test to see how low their vitamin d levels are compared to babies born with healthy placentas, correct??

  5. I wonder if Dr. Cannell has had a chance to look at the work going on using chlorine dioxide to treat children with autism. I believe the number of children who have completely lost their diagnosis of autism is now 82. I think it’s quite amazing what they have accomplished. In the process of applying the chlorine dioxide, they have found that all of the children had a major infestation of parasites. As the treatment worked the parasites out of the children’s bodies, over time, the symptoms progressively disappeared. Many of the parasites were worms, some of them longer than a foot.
    A big question was why were the worms and other parasites able to multiply and grow in these children’s bodies and not others? One reason was apparently that a vaccine was able to eliminate two substances in the body that controls parasites. So when the children were vaccinated, the parasites could go on the rampage.
    My guess is that vitamin D plays a major role in keeping parasites down. Apparently we are all subject to parasites moving into our bodies and children even more so as they crawl around on the ground. So vitamin D can protect children from the parasites but to rid a child of the parasites once they have taken hold takes an enormous effort. It can take up to a year and longer and it takes a tremendous amount of work on the part of the parents and other care givers.
    It appears that parasites have been overlooked as a cause of autism and other longterm illnesses, especially those affecting the brain. For some strange reason, parasites have been overlooked as a cause of many of our problems. I guess if you don’t suspect them, you don’t look for them. But this may also be a reason that vitamin D is providing so much protection from a number of illnesses/disabilities.
    Of course there is still a lot of conjecture as this is all very new and a lot of study still needs to be done to understand what has been seen and what to make of it. At least it gives us a glimpse into something that may turn out to be a major gain in healthcare aside from the job it’s doing for these autistic children.
    If you want to learn about this, I suggest first learning a little about chlorine dioxide and there is an excellent one hour video of Andreas Kalcker speaking about it. He doesn’t start speaking until about 9 1/2 minutes into the video at: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/28979600. Then there is a second video that describes the treatment for autism. This one is just over an hour and a half. They were recorded at a conference in Sofia, Bulgaria. Since the audience is listening to a translation from the English, we hear only English but some of the slides are written in the local language. Still, the information is quite clear.
    I’m trying to be helpful here as I think that vitamin D can be seen with this as a major means of protection against what the chlorine dioxide treats, avoiding not only the onset of the illness but also the long difficult treatment with chlorine dioxide.