Autism: Will vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and early childhood reduce the recurrence rate of autism in newborn siblings?

Med Hypotheses. 2016 Mar;88:74-8. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2016.01.015. Epub 2016 Feb 2.


Background: Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in the world including the vulnerable group of pregnant women. Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is hypothesized to contribute to the cause of autism. Further, it is hypothesized that vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and early childhood will reduce the recurrence rate of autism in newborn siblings.

Methods: To investigate the hypothesis an open label prospective study was performed prescribing vitamin D during pregnancy to mothers of children with autism at a dose of 5000IU/day. The newborn siblings were at high risk for the recurrence of autism. The newborn infants were also prescribed vitamin D, 1000IU/day to their third birthday. The newborn siblings were followed for three years and during that time, were assessed for autism on two separate occasions: at 18months and 36months of age. The results were compared to the reported recurrence rates in siblings of autistic children in the literature.

Results: The final outcome was 1 out of 19 (5%) developed autism in contrast to the recurrence rate of approximately 20% in the literature. We did not have a control group, nor was there blinding.

Conclusions: The results are promising, however, this is a preliminary study with very small numbers and was uncontrolled. Further study with larger numbers is indicated. The ethics of prescribing a low dosage of vitamin D such as 400IU D3/day to a control group of mothers in comparison to a large dose such as 5000IU D3/day are problematic in our opinion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Autistic Disorder / prevention & control*
  • Autoimmunity
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Mothers
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Research Design
  • Siblings
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / therapy*


  • Vitamin D