Approximately 2% of American children experience symptoms among the autism spectrum, including deficits in social interaction, impairment in verbal and nonverbal communication, and stereotyped patterns of activities. Many families seek integrative doctors to investigate food sensitivities, environmental toxins, nutritional deficiencies, and metabolic imbalances not seen on the usual laboratory testing.
According to a study published two weeks ago in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers demonstrated the efficacy of vitamin D supplementation in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Vitamin D has an essential role in neurodevelopment, gene regulation, immune function, inflammation, and overall health. Previous studies have shown a link between the risk of ASD and vitamin D insufficiency. In addition, vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is linked with adverse effects in the fetus and an increased risk of autism.
This study was a four month, double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial including 109 children with ASD from outpatient clinics and five private autism treatment centers. Serum vitamin D levels were measured at the beginning and at the end of the study.
Vitamin D supplementation was dosed at 300 IU per kg/day, not to exceed 5,000 IU/day. The autistic symptoms of the children improved significantly following four months of vitamin D supplementation, which was not seen in the placebo group. There was a significant improvement in irritability, hyperactivity, social withdrawal, stereotypic behavior, and inappropriate speech, as well as significantly fewer autistic mannerisms such as repetitive hand movements, creation of noises, and jumping.
This is the first double-blinded RCT demonstrating the efficacy of vitamin D supplementation in children with ASD.
Proper nutrition is incredibly important and can be difficult to accomplish for children with ASD. It can be very challenging for some parents to get their kids to eat a nutrient dense diet. Children are growing, the brain is developing, and there tends to be some nutritional gaps due to lack of variety in their diet, soil deficiencies, or eating processed, convenience foods. Children sometimes get to choose what foods they will eat, and they may be influenced by advertising or packaging. A well-balanced diet consisting of whole foods should be the number one priority and foundation of their health, but supplements can definitely fill in some of the gaps to support optimal health.
The level of nutrient intake that maintains the best possible health is highly variable from child to child. Lifestyle choices and environmental exposures filtered through genetic predisposition are fundamental factors in ASD, and a successful treatment approach must include investigation into these factors. It is important to assess the nutrient status of the child. This can be antioxidant status, vitamins, essential fatty acids, vitamin D, B12, folate, calcium, etc. An organic acid test is also a great tool to assess nutrient deficiencies, oxidative stress, and detoxification impairment, as well as stool testing to assess the gut microbiome.
By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN