Vitamin D plays a role in autism

Right now, I already hear the loud objections, but no, Vitamin D deficiency is not the cause for autism and no with vitamin D Autism cannot be cured either. But, however, there are interesting studies on the relationship between vitamin D and autism and about positive effects of adequate vitamin D supply and negative of a deficiency. Vitamine D is one of the most researched vitamins in recent years at all. Orthomolecular medicine has long known a connection between symptoms and vitamin deficiency in the psychiatric area, as well as improving the symptoms by supplementation. Several studies have examined this approach for vitamin D.

Autists have lower vitamin D levels

One study showed that children with autism spectrum disorder had strikingly lower vitamin D levels than neurotypic comparison children.
64 small children with developmental delays participated in the study. In the initial assessment, the cases of a psychiatric examination and developmental examinations were subjected. Vitamin D, GDNF and NGF were observed. Patients with low vitamin D levels were given vitamin D. Six months later the same tests were repeated. Significant progress has been made with autistic symptoms and development scores in the vitamin D group.
Another study investigated 215 children with autism spectrum diagnosis and 285 healthy control children. 33 of 215 children in the spectrum received vitamin D3. The autism-specific behaviors were tested before and 3 months after administration of vitamin D3. Here, too, the serum level of vitamin D was lower in autistic subjects than in neurotypic children. The lower the vitamin D level, the more striking the autistic behaviors. After vitamin D3 supplementation, the symptoms were significantly reduced. Another result was that the improvement was all the more striking, the younger the children were.

Vitamin D test and supplement promises help

A further study confirmed these findings and found in 57% of autistic subjects mild to severe vitamin D deficiency. The lower the vitamin D level, the more pronounced the autistic behaviors. The study did not have more than 5000 IU / day of vitamin D3 at 300 IU / kg / day. 80.72% of children who received vitamin D3 treatment had improved results in the areas of behavior, stereotypy, eye contact and attention span after treatment.

How and why does vitamin D help children with autism?

The short answer is, it is known at present that it helps but not exactly how and why. There are some plausible explanation models and probably the approach is multifactorial.
Like all steroid hormones, calcitriol acts as a molecular switch and activates many target genes via the vitamin D receptor (VDR). Many organs of the body have such receptors, including numerous areas of the brain. A genetic disposition for less of these VDR receptors in combination with a vitamin D deficiency might be a risk factor in the genesis of autism. Especially during pregnancy, when the decisive months for brain development, last trimester, are in winter.
A further genetic risk could be with the Cyp450. Enzymes, which are crucial for the activation of the vitamin D.
In addition, it is believed that the numerous genetic mutations that have been thought to be multifactorial and causative in autistic children have been fueled by a vitamin D deficiency since Vitamin D controls functions that protect and repair the genome. This function is insufficient in case of a deficiency, which could explain the many mutations.

A further explanation for the effect of vitamin D in autistic children is the immunoregulatory effect of vitamin D. While many different inflammatory markers and processes have been detected in autistic children, vitamin D has a variety of immunoregulatory and anti-inflammatory effects which counteract this. Some of them affect the brain in particular.

Often alternative medicine recommends for detoxification autism and the use of antioxidants. A crucial and vitamin D-dependent role is played by glutathione, as vitamin D increases the γ-glutamyl transpeptidase, which is involved in glutathione metabolism, via calcitriol in the glutathione cycle. It is needed to restore used up glutathione. Children with autism often have low levels of glutathione, especially in the brain. Glutathione is especially needed for the detoxification of metals, including heavy metals. It protects the nerve cells and is an important essential substance in the body that combats oxidative stress (antioxidant). Using this mechanism, vitamin D can make a decisive contribution to the detoxification and protection of the nerve cells. Further results will be mentioned here. Vitamin D has also been shown to be useful in epilepsy, which is approximately 25% of cases comorbid with autism. A protective mechanism is also suspected for the protection of mitochondria. However, sufficient studies on the role of mitochondriopathies in autists are lacking so far that this presumption should generally be investigated more closely.


Even if it is not figured out what exactly is cause or effect in this complex interplay and just as hypothetically how vitamin D helps, the evidence that it helps is reasond enough to reffer at least a testing of the vitamin D status in pregnant women, especially in the winter months and, if necessary, supplementation. It is also useful in children with a known risk of suspected autism spectrum disorder, identified autism spectrum disorder, and in the case of symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency to justify a testing and supplementation to limit disorders and damage and alleviate suffering of the affected person. The general recommendations for the combination of vitamin D, vitamin K2 and magnesium should be mentioned here for the sake of completeness.