Might cholesterol sulfate deficiency contribute to the development of autistic spectrum disorder?

Med Hypotheses. 2012 Feb;78(2):213-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2011.10.026. Epub 2011 Nov 17.


Autism is a condition characterized by impaired cognitive and social skills, often associated with compromised immune function. There has been considerable concern recently that the incidence of autism is alarmingly on the rise, especially in Western nations, and environmental factors are increasingly suspected to play a role. In this paper, we propose a novel hypothesis for a principle cause of autism, namely insufficient supply of cholesterol sulfate to the fetus during gestation and the infant postnatally. We hypothesize that main contributory factors are insufficient sun exposure and insufficient dietary sulfur, for both the mother and the affected child. A novel contribution is the theory that endothelial nitric oxide synthase produces not only nitric oxide but also sulfate, and that sulfate production is stimulated by sunlight. We further hypothesize that the sulfur shortage manifests as an impaired immune response, including an increased susceptibility to eczema and asthma. Proposed corrective measures involve increased dietary sulfur intake for both the mother and the child, and increased sun exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Androsterone / metabolism
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / epidemiology
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / etiology*
  • Cholesterol Esters / metabolism*
  • Diet
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Nitric Oxide / chemistry
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Sulfates / chemistry
  • Sulfur / chemistry
  • Sulfur / deficiency*
  • Sulfur / metabolism
  • Sunlight


  • Cholesterol Esters
  • Estrogens
  • Sulfates
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Sulfur
  • Androsterone
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • cholesteryl sulfate