Vitamin D Deficiency Correlates with Severity of Autism and Shows Improvement with Supplementation

Vitamin D deficiency has been previously reported in patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, the data on the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and the severity of ASD are limited. In collaboration with Egyptian researchers, Geir Bjørklund (2015) performed a case-controlled cross-sectional analysis on 122 children with ASD, to assess their vitamin D status compared to healthy control children and the relationship between the degree of vitamin D deficiency and the severity of ASD (1).

Fifty-seven percent of the patients with ASD in the study had vitamin D deficiency, and 30% had vitamin D insufficiency. The vitamin D levels in the children with severe ASD were significantly lower than those in children with mild/moderate ASD. It was found that the vitamin D levels had significant negative correlations with the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) scores (1).

106 children with low serum vitamin D levels (<30 ng/ml) then participated in an open-label trial of vitamin D supplementation. The patients were given 300 IU/kg/day (not to exceed 5000 IU/day) for three months. Eighty-three ASD patients completed three months of daily vitamin D treatment. 80.72% (67/83) of the children with ASD who received vitamin D3 treatment had significantly improved outcome, which was mainly in the sections of the Childhood Autism Rating Scale and aberrant behavior checklist subscales that measure behavior, stereotype, eye contact, and attention span (1). Of the 16 parameters measured, ten showed highly statistically significant improvements (see table below).

 

Parameter  P Value (* highly statistically significant)
Relating to people <0.001*
Emotional Response <0.001*
Imitation <0.001*
Body use 0.01*
Object use 0.01*
Adaption to change 0.004*
Listening response 0.01*
Taste, smell, touch 0.1
Visual response 0.003*
Fear 0.13
Verbal communication 0.3
Activity level 0.32
Non-verbal communication 0.2
Intellectual response 0.1
General impression <0.001*
Total CARS score <.001*

 

The researchers concluded that as vitamin D is inexpensive, readily available and safe it may have beneficial effects in ASD patients, particularly when the final serum level is more than 40 ng/ml (1). It should be noted that these results were achieved after only three months of vitamin D supplementation. In a condition that is often present at birth and lasts a lifetime, this is a highly significant finding and should be fully explored immediately.

The first author of the study, Khaled Saad, is Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Assiut University, Assiut, Egypt. Geir Bjørklund is founder and president of the Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (CONEM). Also, one of the coauthors is John Cannell, MD. He is the founder of the Vitamin D Council in San Luis Obispo, California, United States. The study is registered in UMIN Clinical Trials Registry: UMIN000016770.

 

Reference

1. Saad K, Abdel-rahman AA, Elserogy YM, Al-Atram AA, Cannell JJ, Bjørklund G et al. Vitamin D Status in Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Efficacy of Vitamin D Supplementation in Autistic Children. Nutr Neurosci. Article first published online: 15 Apr 2015. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/1476830515Y.0000000019.

 

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