A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

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

Winter, 2016 | Number 1, Volume 30

New study reinforces evidence that low vitamin D contributes to ASD, treatment can help

A new study adds to evidence that vitamin D deficiency or inadequacy is common in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and that improving these children’s vitamin D status may reduce their symptoms. 

Junyan Feng and colleagues tested the vitamin D levels of 215 children with ASD and 285 neurotypical controls matched for age and sex. They evaluated the children with ASD using the Autism Behavior Checklist (ABC) and Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS). Higher scores on these tests indicate increased severity. 

The researchers report, “Serum 25(OH) D levels were significantly lower in children with ASD compared with typically developing children.” They detected overt deficiency in 13% of the children with ASD, and inadequate vitamin D levels in 71.2%. In comparison, none of the controls were defi cient and 61.8% had inadequate levels. 

In addition, the researchers report that children with low vitamin D had higher total scores and language scores on the ABC. However, initial CARS scores did not correlate with vitamin D levels. 

The researchers recommended supplementation for all of the children with vitamin D deficiency or inadequacy. However, while 181 children in the ASD group had low levels of vitamin D, only 37 caretakers agreed to supplementation and followed through consistently. Children whose parents agreed to treatment received intramuscular vitamin D (150,000 IU every month) and oral vitamin D (400 IU daily) for three months. 

After treatment, the researchers report, all of the children had significantly increased vitamin D levels. In addition, they say, total ABC scores, some scores of the ABC subscales (social skills, body and object use, language, and self-help), and total CARS scores were reduced significantly in comparison to pre-treatment scores. The sensory scores on the ABC also exhibited a decreasing trend, although this did not reach significance. 

The researchers say their findings are consistent with earlier studies indicating that vitamin D levels are lower in children with ASD; that there is an increased prevalence of ASD in darker-skinned children (who absorb less vitamin D from sunshine); and that there is a greater likelihood of ASD in children of mothers who are vitamin D-defi cient during pregnancy. In addition, they cite another recent study (Saad et al.) which found that correcting low vitamin D levels in children with ASD led to significant clinical improvements. In that study, more than 80% of 83 children with ASD who received vitamin D treatment improved significantly. 

The researchers note that vitamin D is a hormone that is active throughout the body and is “not only important in regulating calcium and phosphate metabolism but also in neurodevelopment, immunological modulation (including the brain’s immune system), antioxidation, anti-apoptosis, neural differentiation, and gene regulation.” They conclude, “Supplementation of vitamin D3, which is a safe and cost-effective form of treatment, may significantly improve outcome in some children with ASD, especially in younger children.”

The researchers conclude, “Supplementation of vitamin D3, which is a safe and cost-effective form of treatment, may significantly improve outcome in some children with ASD, especially in younger children.”


“Clinical improvement following vitamin D3 supplementation in autism spectrum disorder,” Junyan Feng, Ling Shan, Lin Du, Bing Wang, Honghua Li, Wei Wang, Tiantian Wang, Hanyu Dong, Xiaojing Yue, Zhida Xu, Wouter G. Staal, and Feiyong Jia, Nutritional Neuroscience, January 18, 2016 (epub prior to print publication). Address: Feiyong Jia, Department of Pediatric Neurology and Neurorehabilitation, The First Hospital of Jilin University, No. 71, Xinmin Street, Changchun130021, Jilin Province, China, [email protected]


“Vitamin D status in autism spectrum disorders and the efficacy of vitamin D supplementation in autistic children,” K. Saad, A. A. Abdel-rahman, Y. M. Elserogy, A. A. Al-Atram, J. J. Cannell, G. Bjørklund, M. K. Abedl-Reheim, H. A. K. Othman, A. A. El-Houfey, N. H. R. Abd El-Aziz, K. A. Abd El-Baseer, A. E. Ahmed, and A. M. Ali, Nutritional Neuroscience, April 15, 2015 (epub prior to print publication). Address: Khaled Saad, [email protected].