Australian researchers say taking vitamin D supplements in pregnancy may help reduce the incidence of autism after finding a link between the two.
The potentially groundbreaking development is likely to have important implications from a public health perspective.
The discovery was made by researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute.
They found that pregnant women with low vitamin D levels at 20-weeks gestation were more likely to have a child with autistic traits by the age of six.
“Just as taking folate in pregnancy has reduced the incidence of spina bifida, the result of this study suggests that prenatal vitamin D supplements may reduce the incidence of autism,” says QBI researcher Professor John McGrath.
The Importance Of Vitamin D In Pregnancy
There’s long been evidence to suggest vitamin D helps maintain healthy bones, the study now links it to brain growth.
Professor McGrath’s team had previously linked low neonatal vitamin D with an increased risk of schizophrenia.
How Should Pregnant Women Get More Vitamin D?
The study looked at more than 4000 blood samples from women and their children who were monitored in The Netherlands.
“This research could have important implications from a public health perspective,” says Professor McGrath.
“We would not recommend more sun exposure because of the increased risk of skin cancer in countries like Australia.
“Instead, it’s feasible that a safe, inexpensive, and publicly accessible vitamin D supplement in at-risk groups may reduce the prevalence of this risk factor.”
It’s estimated that one in every 100 people has autism, that’s 230,000 Australians.
Meanwhile, there have been recent calls for earlier autism diagnosis for Aussie kids.