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Vitamin D and Autism: A Case Report of Improved Symptoms

Chinese doctors report apparent response to vitamin D in toddler with autism and call for clinical trial to evaluate safety and benefits
December 15, 2014

Doctors in China are reporting that treatment with vitamin D appeared to produce dramatic improvements in a toddler with autism. They call on researchers to conduct clinical trials to evaluate the benefits and safety in individuals with autism and low vitamin D levels.

The report appears today in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Scientists are studying the role of vitamin D in many brain disorders, from depression to dementia,” notes developmental pediatrician Paul Wang, Autism Speaks senior vice president for medical research. “This is an area where Autism Speaks is supporting research and is watching closely for results.”

That said, Dr. Wang cautions against reading too much into a single case report. “With one case report, it's always possible that improvements in symptoms are coincidental or that the improvement is a matter of perception or placebo effect,” he says. “It's also true that what seems to work for one child with autism may or may not work for other children.”

Mega-vitamin therapy of various types has long been of interest to the autism community. For more perspective, see
Complementary Approaches for Treating Autism
Can Supplements Relieve Autism Symptoms?

In their report, autism specialists at China’s First Hospital of Jilin University describe a toddler they diagnosed at 32 months with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

They describe how the boy did not respond to his name or instructions and spoke only a few isolated words. He didn’t play with toys, but instead compulsively smelled objects and shredded paper. He ran in circles “endlessly” and suffered from tantrums that involved head banging.

Blood tests showed that the boy had borderline low blood levels of vitamin D (12.5 ng/mL). The doctors administered a monthly injection of vitamin D3 (150,000 IU) and prescribed a daily oral supplement (400 IU).

After two months, the boy’s vitamin D blood levels had risen to 81.2 ng/mL, and his parents were reporting clear improvements. The boy had stopped running in circles and banging his head. He was responding to his name, playing with toys and asking his parents to hold him in their arms. Re-evaluation with a diagnostic checklist likewise showed significant improvements in all areas of core autism symptoms.    

“It is important to note that this single case observation cannot be generalized to all patients with ASD,” the doctors write. “It is hoped that this case report will encourage researchers to conduct further long-term controlled clinical trials.” 

Also see "Taking Iron During Pregnancy and Nursing May Reduce Autism Risk."

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