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Autism

Should Autisic Children be given Vitamin D?

06/18/2009

Question:

My grandson is 7 and has been diagnosed with autism. I read an article that said low levels of vitamin d have been associated with autism. If we gave our grandson some supplemental vitamin d, would it help? 

Answer:

We can't be sure vitamin D will help, but it is not likely to harm if supplemented in moderation. Each individual's nutritional status should be evaluated.

In recent research we have found that although on average children with autism consume an adequate diet as a group, most have deficiencies at the individual level because of their odd, restricted dietary preferences. For example, one child might be deficient in calcium while another consumes an excess of calcium but is deficient in folic acid (a B vitamin).

A peculiarity of vitamin D is that few foods have it unless they are deliberately enriched, such as vitamin D milk. Humans depend to some extent on sunlight to convert cholesterol on the skin into vitamin D. So in the winter, it is advisable to supplement children with vitamin D.

Another interesting thing about vitamin D is that although it was known for decades that it is necessary for bone growth, only recently have we learned that it is also necessary for brain function, heart health, and other aspects of health. If a child is eating an unbalanced diet, it is advisable to give a daily RDI multivitamin/mineral tablet.

As with other vitamins and minerals, it is possible to have toxicity from excessive amounts of vitamin D, but the amount in an RDI multivitamin/mineral added to what is in the diet is not likely to be a problem unless the child is consuming hugely excessive amounts of a certain food rich in that nutrient (e.g., drinking over a gallon a day of vitamin D enriched milk).

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Response by:

L Eugene Arnold, MD, MEd L Eugene Arnold, MD, MEd
Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University