Sunday, December 29, 2013

Autism and Vitamin D

Reading LifeExtension magazine (January 2014- I learned that there might be a connection between vitamin D deficiency and Autism. Research indicates that vitamin D stimulates factors in the body than could have a beneficial effect on the disorder:

-        Vitamin D has significant anti-inflammatory actions, which are high in autism. For example, it inhibits the actions of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, elevated in autism.  Some believe that autism is a disease of neuro-inflammation. The article speculates that vitamin D could help autistic children by reducing inflammation.

-        Autoantibodies to the brain have been identified in autistic children. The severity of autism are associated with levels of those antibodies. The article speculates that vitamin D could help autistic children by reducing levels of antibodies.

-        Some proteins induce the survival, development and function of nerve and brain cells. Vitamin D regulates those proteins and thus, it could help autistic children by increasing those proteins and help the brain to develop properly.

Too many coulds, mights, maybes. The author of the article, John Cannell, MD, advises parents to understand that “no evidence, other than theoretical, exists for such effects.” And yet he states “even though there are no studies proving the benefits of the vitamin in autism specifically, the proven benefits on the mechanism underlying autism make vitamin D a smart option for children with autism.”
And goes on to explain complicated procedures of calculating the dosage per pounds ratio, other vitamin and nutrients the child should take, and blood tests that should be obtained every specific amount of months. Something that the lay person would have a hard time to understand, in my opinion.
And he goes further to provide his contact information “for parents who want me to participate in the diagnosis and treatment of their child.”

I can imagine desperate parents raising their hopes and being ready to invest (waste?) efforts, time and money on unproven treatments.

I think making non-scientifically proven claims and raise the expectations of people is a very delicate matter. We should raise our voices against it and explain the danger involved. I understand parents who will do anything to improve their situation. We the professionals in the field ought to safeguard them.
I usually recommend to share with the general public only proven effective treatments based on scientific research. On behalf of distressed and confused parents, I think it is the right thing to do.

Daniel Adatto, MA, BCBA

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