A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Fall, 2016 | Number 4, Volume 30

Low vitamin D associated with more autism-related traits

Low levels of vitamin D during prenatal development correlate with a higher level of autism-related traits, according to a new study. 

A. A. E. Vinkhuyzen and colleagues analyzed data on the vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25OHD) status of 4,229 children (measured by cord blood levels at delivery) and their mothers (measured at midgestation). They also evaluated the children’s scores on an abridged version of the parent-administered Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) when the children were approximately six years of age. 

The researchers say, “In all analyses, 25OHD deficiency or lower 25OHD concentrations were associated with higher (more impaired) SRS scores.” When the researchers compared children with SRS scores above the suggested cutoff for possible ASD with children below the suggested cutoff, those who were vitamin D-deficient at mid-gestation were 3.8 times more likely to be screened positive than those who had adequate vitamin D levels at mid-gestation. These findings persisted when the researchers controlled for ethnicity, genetic factors, and the season in which the blood samples were taken. 

The researchers say, “Because gestational vitamin D deficiency is readily preventable with safe, cheap, and accessible supplements, this candidate risk factor warrants closer scrutiny.” They note that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was high in their sample, with 16% of mothers being defi cient at mid-gestation and 36% of the cord blood samples indicating a deficiency.

When Vinkhuyzen and colleagues compared children with SRS scores above the suggested cutoff for possible ASD with children below the suggested cutoff, those who were vitamin D-deficient at mid-gestation were 3.8 times more likely to be screened positive than those who had adequate vitamin D levels at mid-gestation.


Citations

“Gestational vitamin D deficiency and autismrelated traits: the Generation R Study,” A. A. E. Vinkhuyzen, D. W. Eyles, T. H. J. Burne, L. M. E. Blanken, C. J. Kruithof, F. Verhulst, V. W. Jaddoe, H. Tiemeier, and J. J. McGrath, Molecular Psychiatry, November 29, 2016 (epub prior to print publication). Address: J. J. McGrath, Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia, j.mcgrath@ uq.edu.au.