Vitamin D is essential- it plays a critical role in everything from bone strength and growth, to immune system function and cardiovascular health. Until recently, the merits of Vitamin D were poorly recognized and at least in pediatrics, levels were infrequently checked. Now, when I am drawing labs for concerns of hyperlipidemia or short stature, chronic fatigue, anxiety or almost anything really, I add a Vitamin D level – because without fail, the levels are always low. It seems counterintuitive, that in our mild climate with sunny skies that anyone would have sub-therapeutic levels, but since vitamin D is relatively sparse in our edible diet and skin synthesis of the vitamin requires ultraviolet light – it is the norm to see serum concentrations below 30.

I came across an interesting case report yesterday at work that was published in the journal Pediatrics (Volume 135, number 1, January 2015) that noted that lower concentrations of Vitamin D may lead to increasing brain size, altered brain shape and enlarged ventricles – all features observed in children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Additionally, the article noted that higher concentrations of the active form of Vitamin D (once converted in the liver) is associated with reduced risk of an ASD, and concurrently, low levels may cause ASD symptoms.

In this case report, an almost 3 year-old boy with an ASD and Vitamin D deficiency saw a marked decrease in his core ASD symptoms after supplementation with Vitamin D3.

There is still so much to explore on this front, and I do not think this alone is the answer, but the interplay of genetics and environmental influence is undeniable with regards to the increasing prevalence of autism. It may be worth discussing Vitamin D supplementation with your pediatrician, or at least checking a serum level with the next lab draw!