Autism and Vitamin D: New Study Examines Effects; Uncovers Mysteries

New study published regarding the affects of Vitamin D and its action in treating autism.

As reported by the Vitamin D Council, a few days ago National Academy of Sciences member, Professor Bruce Ames, addressed findings he and his coauthor, Rhonda Patrick recently discovered regarding the affects of Vitamin D and its action in treating autism.

The study published in the FESEB Journal, one of the world’s most cited biology journals for the latest research reports and reviews of epigenetics, examines how Vitamin D hormones plays a part in regulating serotonin synthesis.

Through University of California’s – Santa Cruz’s genome browser, they discovered three genes that are atypical in autism and are directly regulated by vitamin D.  This means vitamin D is one of the hormones that control how these three genes function.

This study also assisted the team in solving a few of the mysteries surrounding autism. One mystery examined was why autistic individuals have elevated serotonin levels in their peripheral blood, but low levels of serotonin in their brain. It was discovered that there is a central gene and a peripheral gene involved in turning tryptophan into serotonin.

With Vitamin D down-regulating the peripheral serotonin gene and up-regulating the central serotonin gene these actions may explain why there are elevated blood serotonin but decreased brain serotonin when a autistic child’s vitamin D levels are low. Many studies of vitamin D levels in autism to date show autistic children are deficient in vitamin D.  This was first theorized in a 2001 study “Vitamin D: the neglected neurosteroid? Trends Neurosci., 2001” by  Professors John McGrath, Darryl Eyles and colleagues.

Another autism mystery Drs Patrick and Ames may have solved is why levels of oxytocin are low in autistic children. The hormone Oxytocin has many functions including promoting socialization. Drs Patrick and Ames also explain that vitamin D directly control oxytocin therefore if children are deficient in vitamin D, they will also have low levels of oxytocin.

Also examined in this study is a possible explanation as to why autism is five times more common in boys than in girls. It turns out estrogen greatly increases the expression of the central serotonin gene thus providing a reason as to why it protects girls from autism caused from vitamin D deficiency but exposes boys.

Lastly examined is tryptophan, the amino acid that is metabolized into serotonin, also metabolizes into a protein called kynurenine. Kynurenine promotes immunity and in the placenta during pregnancy it is needed to prevent a general autoimmune response by generating regulatory T cells.  This action maintains immunological tolerance to the fetus.

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