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Vitamin D and Autism

December 19, 2016

This is now the darkest time of the year in Milwaukee. We have only nine hours of light, and the sun only rises 11 degrees over the horizon. We are making no vitamin D. It requires a 45 degree angle sun (April 1) and a warm enough day for you to expose your skin to make vitamin D. So it’s a good time to remind you how important vitamin D might be.

This source article is fascinating: Nature Molecular Psychiatry  The  puzzle of autism is pretty complex. The authors took 4,229 mothers and their children and measured their vitamin D both in the middle of the pregnancy and then again at their birth with cord blood. That data was then compared to autism at age 6. They defined deficiency as 25 moles (which is 10 ng by commonly used American measures). That is a pretty low-level, but close to what we get to in January in Wisconsin if we are not taking a supplement of vitamin D. The correlation between low D status in pregnancy and the SRS (Social Responsive Score – a measure of autism) scores were statistically significant to p< 0.00. The findings persisted (a) when the model was limited to offspring with European ancestry, (b) when samples were adjusted for genetic data, (c) when 25OHD was entered as a continuous measure in the models and (d) when seasonal blood sampling corrections were taken into account. The conclusion was that low vitamin D status in pregnancy is a real risk factor for autism.

Now, what vitamin D supplementation is needed to be “sufficient” during pregnancy? Bruce Hollis and Carol Wagner conducted a double blind clinicaltrial in pregnancy and showed that 4,000 IU of D a day was the least needed to result in sufficient D in both mother and child at delivery. They also collaborated on another study in pediatrics to show that it takes 6,400 IU during pregnancy to have enough vitamin D in milk for a mother to be able to supply her child with sufficient D with breast-feeding.

Why does D have such a protean effect, but take so long to play out? Vitamin D is fundamentally your “maturation” hormone. Ten percent of the human genome has vitamin D responsiveness, and it essentially plays a role in the maturation of stem cells. A developing brain, in utero, needs to get its connections right to then mature properly when it is born and developing complex social skills. Vitamin D helps in that maturation. It takes that long because our maturation takes that long. Cancer takes 20 years to mature, which is why it takes studies of D that last at least 10 years to show its beneficial effect. If you see a study that lasts less than five years with Vitamin D, be suspicious of its outcome.

WWW—What will work for me? My vitamin D level was seven when I first measured myself 15 years ago. I take 100,000 IU a month, mostly in four doses of 20-25,000 IU a week. I advise every pregnant woman that she should take 6,400 IU a day as part of her regimen of preparation. Or else she better get herself out of Wisconsin and down to Cancun for a week every month for the next four months.

John E. Whitcomb, M.D. is founder and medical director of Brookfield Longevity & Healthy Living Clinic. He is a Yale University School of Medicine graduate and is board certified in holistic and integrative medicine from Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.

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