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Autism Diet Therapy and Vitamin D Deficiency

How Critical is Vitamin D to Treating Autism

Does a vitamin D deficiency contribute to autism?

It’s been a few years since Dr. John J. Cannell released his  research on Vitamin D Deficiency and its relation to Autism.  His theories were controversial at the time. Challenged a widely debated, the controversy continues today.  Many are of the opinion that vitamin D deficiancy is not a cause of  autism  and other brain dysfunctions.

The Link Between Autism and Low Levels of Vitamin D

The Link Between Autism and Low Levels of Vitamin D

After all this time we are finding that the deficient levels of vitamin D are not only prevalent in people afflicted with autism spectrum disorders but also cancer or cardiovascular diseases.

Details of the effects of vitamin D deficient diets were published on http://www.lef.org/   by By Julius Goepp, MD.

The “Vitamin D Deficiency Theory” of Autism

What possible factors involving both genetics and environment could account for the dramatic change in autism rates in just 20 years? Our genes surely aren’t changing that fast, and while our environment is clearly being altered, no serious scientist suggests that anything radical enough to cause an epidemic of brain dysfunction has taken place in the past two decades. That’s correct, argues Dr. John Cannell, but in fact our behavior with regard to our environment has indeed undergone significant changes—changes that, because of their effects on the vitamin D neurosteroid system, can and do account for many of the observed facts about the autism epidemic.
Cannell starts with the incredible increase in our understanding of vitamin D’s fundamental contri-butions to human health. Though most people (sadly including many physicians) still associate it only with bone mineralization, we now understand that the active form of vitamin D, called calcitriol, plays an equally important role as a neurosteroid hormone, directly responsible for many elements in brain development and behavior34 (other examples of neurosteroids include the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, which have effects on the full spectrum of human behaviors). Vitamin D obtained from supplements or sunshine must undergo two biochemical processes before it becomes active. First, it is metabolized by the liver to 25-hydroxyvitamin D, the main circulating form of vitamin D and the only vitamin D metabolite that should be measured to assess vitamin D status.Dr. Cannell, a widely-published expert on vitamin D’s many-faceted effects,4,31-33 believes that these facts line up in a compelling fashion to implicate vitamin D deficiency and support the “vitamin D deficiency theory” of autism.3Let’s follow Dr. Cannell’s line of thinking as he lines up the extraordinary evidence that we may be able to stop the autism epidemic in its tracks with simple vitamin D supplementation.

Circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D then undergoes a final biochemical step to form calcitriol, a potent neurosteroid that controls brain cell growth, and acts on receptor molecules found in brain cells from the first days of embryo formation.35 Because of these potent effects, researchers in 2001 labeled vitamin D the “neglected neurosteroid” and concluded that vitamin D deficiency “should be examined in more detail as a candidate risk factor” for neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.36More recently, researchers have suggested that vitamin D, acting as a neurosteroid, offers “neuroprotection, antiepileptic effects, immunomodulation, [impact on] several brain neurotransmitter systems and hormones, as well as regulation of behaviors,”37 stressing the importance of prenatal, neonatal, and postnatal vitamin D supplementation for normal brain functioning.38
What is the evidence to support the vitamin D deficiency theory of autism? A recent review by Dr. Cannell provides a substantial and cogent evidence base,3 starting with the characteristics of the vitamin D neurosteroid system itself. Calcitriol acts as a “molecular switch” in brain tissue, turning on powerful genes that influence brain development. There are about 1,000 genes already known to be targets of calcitriol activity, and that number is growing fast.37,41But what has happened in the past 20 years that could affect the neurosteroid function of vitamin D and relate it to the explosion of autism cases? Plenty, argues Cannell: put very simply, we have become excessively “sun-phobic” in our efforts to reduce the very real risk of skin cancers.3,39 Couple this with our decreasing natural exposure to sunlight as we’ve moved from agricultural to manufacturing to service-based activities, and you have the “perfect storm” for vitamin D deficiency.1,11 Vitamin D levels in industrialized countries are known to be much lower than those of fully sun-exposed individuals.40 Thus, our behavior has had the paradoxical and unintended consequence of limiting our blood levels of the only known precursor of a vital neurohormone that, in turn, can influence the very organ of behavior itself, the brain.3

But unlike any other vitamin system, the bulk of human vitamin D stores come not from oral intake but from skin production under the influence of sunlight.42,43 As Dr. Cannell notes in his review, “Large populations of pregnant women putting small amounts [of vitamin D] in their mouths—in the form of prenatal vitamins—instead of generating large amounts in their skins, is novel to human brain development;”44 since we no longer get ample sun exposure, we need to pay closer attention to how much vitamin D we do get through our mouths.

The case for significant oral supplementation is made even clearer when one considers that skin production of vitamin D is vastly more efficient than oral intake.2 In fact, just 10-40 minutes of summer sunbathing by a fair-skinned adult, notes Cannell, produces about 20,000 units of vitamin D which is presented to the systemic circulation over the next 24 hours45—to get the same amount orally a pregnant woman would have to drink 200 glasses of milk (at 100 IU per glass) or take 50 standard prenatal multivitamins (400 IU per tablet) to realize the same gains!3

But, as Cannell goes on to point out, we’ve been assiduously avoiding sun exposure for the past 20 years, dutifully following AMA guidelines.39 It is precisely during that same 20-year period that we’ve seen the rapid rise in autism rates,14 though as Dr. Cannell acknowledges, “Thousands of other environmental changes occurred during this same time and such associations, on their own, mean little.”3

But there are plenty of additional persuasive arguments supporting the theory. The calcitriol neurohormone system is different from all the body’s other steroid hormone systems. While other steroids are produced directly from the body’s natural store of cholesterol “precursor” compounds, the amount of calcitriol produced is completely dependent on having enough precursor 25-hydroxyvitamin D present in the first place. And brain levels of activated vitamin D, as Cannell observes, “directly depend on the amount of vitamin D the mother makes in her skin or puts in her mouth.”3

Cannell’s dramatic conclusion is that “Human behavior, be it the step into the sun, the step to the supplements, the step into the shade, or the step to the sunscreen, determine brain calcitriol levels.”3 In the case of the human fetus, as we’re about to see, brain calcitriol levels are directly linked to very early cognitive development, with tremendous implications for the developing baby’s brain.

Check out the whole report here: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2009/apr2009_The-Link-Between-Autism-and-Low-Levels-of-Vitamin-D_01.htm

So where do we stand today?

NewAutism.com has posted an update on their site:

So, if one of the many answers to why Autism symptoms are so severe at times could be because of Vitamin D deficiencies, why aren’t parents just administering Vitamin D Supplements or utilizing nature’s natural Vitamin D source; the sun?

The problem arises when pediatricians are consulted regarding the increase of Vitamin D to a child’s system. Many of them argue that the recommended dosage by specialists is too high, and then parents of the child decline to take part in the program. Dr. Cannell says himself that they do not go against Doctor’s orders and want to “work along with pediatricians whenever possible. ”

There have been wonderful results reported from adjusting the vitamin D levels in Autistic children. Parents have reported that it has helped in behavioral issues such as tantrums, and even for sleeping. Shyness, eye contact, and speech have also been reported to have improved utilizing the Vitamin D treatment method.

Get all of the details: http://www.newautism.com/new-research-links-vitamin-d-deficiencies-to-autism/1844/

We would be interested to hear of any experiences you have had with vitamin D deficiency and treating autism. Please share the information with others.

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