Cases of autism are rising at an alarming rate. Some sources say autism is even increasing at a rate of 12% every year, but thus far no one has been able to put a finger on why autism rates are rising and what may be causing autism in the first place. Executive Director of the Vitamin D council, John Cannell, MD, thinks that there may be a link between autism and vitamin D deficiency, a subject he covers in his book, Autism Causes, Prevention & Treatment: Vitamin D Deficiency and the Explosive Rise of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Cannell draws on decades of autism and vitamin D research for his book, noting that vitamin D may be paramount in preventing autism and that high doses of vitamin D may help relieve symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. Dr. Cannell is not the only one who has recognized this correlation however.
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Vitamin D is controversial in general with some saying pills aren’t a safe way to take in vitamin D and that exposure to sunshine may be a better option. However, debates aside, many studies agree with Dr. Cannell’s findings on the issue. One study shows that levels of vitamin D in people may be declining because more folks are using sunscreen and everyone is spending less time outside. The same study found that children with autism had significantly lower levels of vitamin D than non-autistic children. Some research notes that serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin, three brain hormones that affect social behavior related to autism, are all activated by vitamin D hormone. Thus, one might concur that vitamin D supplements improve symptoms associated with autism. One study even says that vitamin D supplements may decrease the core symptoms of autism, perhaps because vitamin D is so important to brain development. Dr. Cannell says that the risk of autism might be lowered significantly if women use vitamin D supplements before conception, during pregnancy, and after birth. As of yet, there’s no conclusive evidence that vitamin D should be used to treat children with autism, but some of Dr. Cannell’s reports say he has seen improvement in autism after increasing vitamin D blood levels, so it could be worth a look.