A growing body of literature suggests that higher serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations, either in utero or in early life, may reduce the risk of autism. For example, an ecological study in the companion paper inversely correlated solar UV-B doses in the United States with prevalence of autism among those aged 6-17 y. That study proposed that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy could account for this finding, although the findings are also consistent with childhood vitamin D deficiency contributing to the condition. Also, in a recent study, children with autism had lower serum 25(OH)D concentrations than did control subjects (19 vs. 33 ng/ml), despite parents of each group reporting the same amount of sun exposure. The same study found highly significant inverse correlations between 25(OH)D and autism rating scales and between 25(OH)D and levels of an antineuronal antibody. This finding indicates that higher serum 25(OH)D concentrations may reduce the symptoms of established autism. Because activated vitamin D, a secosteroid, upregulates DNA-repair genes, vitamin D deficiency during development may inhibit the repair of de novo DNA mutations in fetuses and infants and thus contribute to risk of autism. Vitamin D might also reduce the risk or severity of autism through its anti-inflammatory actions, antiautoimmune effects, increasing seizure threshold, increasing T-regulatory cells, protecting the mitochondria, and upregulating glutathione, which scavenges oxidative by-products and chelates (captures and excretes) heavy metals. Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and childhood is a widespread and growing epidemic.
Keywords: Autism; DNA; antioxidants,; autoimmune disease; inflammation; seizures; vitamin D.