January 13, 2008

Is Vitamin D an Autism Treatment?

Is Vitamin D an Autism Treatment? …it has now been suggested that autism may be caused by insufficient vitamin D during pregnancy and/or early years. Autistic children have difficulty in forming relationships, but they also tend to have larger heads, changes similar to those found in baby rats that are bred with insufficient vitamin D. (The Telegraph, Why is Vitamin D So Vital?).

Extracted from a periodic newsletter from the Vitamin D Council by John Cannell, MD

The following is Dr. Cannell’s reply to one of a number of questions sent to him regarding vitamin D and autism.

Dear Dr. Cannell:

Who are you to write an article on autism? You didn't even publish it in a medical journal. You are not with a university. You have not published very much. You have no expertise on autism. No autism experts support your theory. There is no evidence to support the theory. Shouldn't you leave this to experts before you give parents more false hopes?

Mary, Trenton, New Jersey.

Dear Mary:

You are right, I am a nobody; just ask my ex-wife. In the Toronto Globe, I explained why I have not yet submitted the paper. As far as giving false hopes, I've thought about that charge. Right now, regardless of what advocacy groups say, autism is rather hopeless. That is, no treatment, including vitamin D, has been shown to materially affect the clinical course of autism. As a psychiatrist, my observation is that people would rather live with a false hope than with no hope.

Furthermore, if autistic children began taking vitamin D, the worse that can happen is that a period of false hope will followed by dashed hopes and then parents will be back to hopelessness. In the meantime, they will have made their child vitamin D sufficient. Vitamin D deficiency is a serious problem in childhood. (Postgrad Med J. 2007 Apr;83(978):230-5).

As far as the theory having no support from experts, Dr. Richard Mills, research director of the National Autistic Society in England, was quoted in the Telegraph article on the autism/vitamin D theory: "There has been speculation in the past about autism being more common in high-latitude countries that get less sunlight and a tie-up with rickets has been suggested - observations which support the theory."

Finally, you said there is no evidence to support the theory. I assume you meant there is no proof. The first statement is absolutely false, the second absolutely true. As I detailed in my paper, there is a lot of evidence to support the theory. In fact, if anyone can come up with an autism fact, that the theory cannot explain, I'd like to know about it.

Even the announcement of a link between television viewing and autism supports the theory. Furthermore, the TV/autism link is actually evidence of a treatment effect. That is, if autistic children who play outside in the sunshine more - watching less TV - have less severe illness, it may be due to the Sun-God, who bestows her precious gift of calcitriol (natural vitamin D) into the brains of children playing outside in her sunlight but not into the brains of children watching TV inside in the darkness. (Natl Bur Econ Res Bull Aging Health. 2007 Winter;(18):2-3).

As far as proof the theory is true, there is, of course, none. In medicine, proof means randomized controlled human trials, the gold standard for proof. However, proof is the last step, not the first. First comes evidence, then comes a theory, then comes researchers disproving those theories. It works that way. Sometimes we never get to the last step, proof. For example, please point me to a single randomized controlled human trial proving cigarette smoking is dangerous? Instead, the convincing evidence of smoking's dangerousness lies in epidemiological (population) studies, not randomized controlled trials.

Proof, or disproof, of the autism vitamin D theory will take years, years during which young autistic brains will continue to suffer irreparable damage. Perhaps vitamin D' powerful anti-inflammatory actions will help prevent that damage, perhaps not.

It's something of a Pascal's wager, betting on vitamin D instead of the existence of God, risking your child's brain instead of eternal damnation. "If you believe vitamin D helps autism and turn out to be incorrect, you have lost nothing - but if you don't believe in vitamin D and turn out to be incorrect, your child will suffer irreparable brain damage."

John Cannell, MD
The Vitamin D Council
9100 San Gregorio Road
Atascadero, CA 93422
Used with permission.

Realted articles:

Autism - Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber Therapy

Signs of Autism in Infants – Parents See Signs Long Before Professionals

Breast Cancer Progression Correlates with Lower Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D protects against prostate cancer & increases survival rates

Vitamin D protects against Breast Cancer & curbs tumour progression

The Multitude of Health Benefits from Natural Sunlight and Vitamin D

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is presented for information purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner. It cannot and should not be used as a basis for diagnosis or choice of treatment.

Copyright 2007 Kevin Flatt. Reproduction of any information on other websites is PROHIBITED.

Disclaimer: The information and opinions on this website is for information purposes only and is believed to be accurate and sound, based on the best judgment available to the author. Readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. Readers who fail to consult appropriate health authorities assume the risk of any injuries.