Could Vitamin D Improve Autism Symptoms?
For the first time, scientists have shown a significant improvement in autism symptoms associated with vitamin D supplementation in a double-blind clinical trial. The findings suggest that parents of children who are on the autism spectrum may see some beneficial effects if they supplement their kids with vitamin D.
This new research comes on the heels of previous study results showing that 57 percent of children with autism were vitamin D deficient and 30 percent had insufficient levels of the vitamin. In addition, vitamin D levels of patients who had severe autism were significantly lower than those who had mild to moderate autism.
New vitamin D and autism study
A total of 109 children aged 3 to 10 years participated in the study. Over a four-month period, the children were given 300 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D3 per kilogram of body weight. Dosing never exceeded 5,000 IU per day.
At the end of the trial period, the researchers saw:
- A 4 to 10 point decline in the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) in 76.4 percent of kids who took vitamin D. CARS includes assessment of relationship to people, emotional response, verbal communication, activity level, fear, and nervousness, among other factors
- A 1 to 3 point decline in 18.2 percent of kids in the vitamin D group
- No such improvements were seen in kids who received placebo
- Side effects occurred in 8.3 percent of those who took vitamin D and included rash, itching and diarrhea. These were brief and mild
The authors noted that their findings could justify a new approach for kids with autism, yet caution is still urged. Carol Povey, director of the Centre for Autism at the National Autistic Society warned that “parents and autistic people” should not “base any decisions on this research until further studies are carried out.”
Before a recommendation concerning vitamin D supplementation can be offered, reproducible large-scale research that confirms this new finding is needed. Parents who want to explore vitamin D supplementation for their children should discuss this possibility with a trusted healthcare professional.
Saad K et al. Randomized controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2016 Oct. Online
Saad K et al. Vitamin D status in autism spectrum disorders and the efficacy of vitamin D supplementation in autistic children. Nutritional Neuroscience 2016; 19(8)
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