Vitamin D Supplementation Improves Symptoms in Many Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

New research shows that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may benefit from receiving supplemental vitamin D.

A recent study, published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, conducted a double-blinded randomized clinical trial on 109 children with ASD and found that among children supplemented with vitamin D3, autism symptoms were significantly improved.

Vitamin D has a fundamental role in healthy brain development and functioning, as well as in aging and gene regulation. Previous data shows that greater than 85% of children with ASD have either vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. In this study, children in the therapy group received 300 IU vitamin D3/kg/day, not to exceed 5000 IU/day throughout the four-month treatment period. The children ranged in age from 3-10 years old.

In the vitamin D supplemented children, significant improvements were found in several common indicators of ASD including irritability, hyperactivity, social withdrawal, stereotypic behavior, inappropriate speech, social cognition, and social and cognitive awareness.

While the vitamin D levels were similar in all children participating in the study prior to treatment, at the end of the four-month period, the mean levels of serum vitamin D were significantly elevated in the supplemented group. Further, the study’s authors indicate that new research indicates that both vitamin D insufficiency and maternal vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy may be significant risk factors for ASD development.

While the results showed significant benefits of giving Vitamin D3 supplements to children who have ASD, this is the first randomized control trial to look at the issue and it was in a relatively small group of children. Thus, the study’s authors recommend further studies to validate their findings. Parents of children with ASD should definitely explore vitamin D levels in greater detail with their health care providers to determine if supplementation is a good option for their child. If vitamin D levels are low then supplementation is a very simple solution that may provide significant benefit.

Reference:

Saad, K., Abdel-Rahman, A.A., Elserogy, Y.M., Al-Atram, A.A., El-Houfey, A.A.,…and Abdel-Salam, A.M. (2016). Randomized controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation in children with autism spectrum disorder. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. doi: 10.1111/jcpp12652

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