Vitamin D and Autism (Spectrum Disorder)

First off, it is often terribly hard to detangle environmental from genetic from random forces in any complex system, but even more so in people where every one of us has a unique genetic profile, a unique environmental history, and a complex interaction with the world around us. Right out the gate you are in a sample size of one.

Then anything biochemical / medical has to deal with the interacting complexity of that genetics with methylation of some genes, turning them on or off in response to the environment or sometimes inherited methylation.

In biological systems, methylation is catalyzed by enzymes; such methylation can be involved in modification of heavy metals, regulation of gene expression, regulation of protein function, and RNA processing. (Methylation of heavy metals can also occur outside biological systems.) Chemical methylation of tissue samples is also one method for reducing certain histological staining artifacts. The counterpart of methylation is demethylation.
Human DNA has about 80–90% of CpG sites methylated, but there are certain areas, known as CpG islands, that are GC-rich (high guanine and cytosine content, made up of about 65% CG residues), wherein none are methylated. These are associated with the promoters of 56% of mammalian genes, including all ubiquitously expressed genes. One to two percent of the human genome are CpG clusters, and there is an inverse relationship between CpG methylation and transcriptional activity. Methylation contributing to epigenetic inheritance can occur through either DNA methylation or protein methylation. Similarly, RNA methylation occurs in different RNA species viz. tRNA, rRNA, mRNA, tmRNA, snRNA, snoRNA, miRNA, and viral RNA. Different catalytic strategies are employed for RNA methylation by a variety of RNA-methyltransferases. RNA methylation is thought to have existed before DNA methylation in the early forms of life evolving on earth.[3] N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is the most common and abundant methylation modification in RNA molecules (mRNA) present in eukaryotes. 5-methylcytosine (5-mC) also commonly occurs in various RNA molecules. Recent data strongly suggest that m6A and 5-mC RNA methylation affects the regulation of various biological processes such as RNA stability and mRNA translation, and that abnormal RNA methylation contributes to etiology of human diseases.

So good luck trying to sort out all that whirring machinery with just one or two samples of people and a couple of trials of a treatment. “Never the same way twice” comes to mind.

Yet in large populations you can find general trends. Still, the “known sound treatment” may well kill some small fraction of the population and a drug that works fine in most will have unacceptable “side effects” in others. Why medicine is a “practice”…

So take all the below references and statements with a few tons of salt. It may well be an idiosyncratic thing in one person or one population, or just a statistical quirk. Yet some trends “fit”.

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.”

Full text of the original report PDF file here:

Core Symptoms of Autism Improved After Vitamin D Supplementation
Feiyong Jia, Bing Wang, Ling Shan, Zhida Xu, Wouter G. Staal, Lin Du


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder caused by a complex interaction between genetic and environmental risk factors. Among the environmental factors, vitamin D3 (cholecaliferol) seems to play a significant role in the etiology of ASD because this vitamin is important for brain development. Lower concentrations of vitamin D3 may lead to increased brain size, altered brain shape, and enlarged ventricles, which have been observed in patients with ASD. Vitamin D3 is converted into 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 in the liver. Higher serum concentrations of this steroid may reduce the risk of autism. Importantly, children with ASD are at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, possibly due to environmental factors. It has also been suggested that vitamin D3 deficiency may cause ASD symptoms. Here, we report on a 32-month-old boy with ASD and vitamin D3 deficiency. His core symptoms of autism improved significantly after vitamin D3 supplementation. This case suggests that vitamin D3 may play an important role in the etiology of ASD, stressing the importance of clinical assessment of vitamin D3 deficiency and the need for vitamin D3 supplementation in case of deficiency.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder, characterized by impairment in social interaction and communication, accompanied by stereotyped and repetitive behavior, with varied levels of severity.1–3 The genetic architecture of autism is complex, and its exact mechanisms remain elusive. Heritability estimates for ASD are about 50%.4,5 Most likely the risk of autism arises from sporadic DNA mutations. Environmental factors, such as higher age of the father or obesity, may be related to these mutations.6,7 Indeed, a growing body of literature suggests that certain modifiable risk factors such as maternal metabolic syndrome and certain vitamins such as vitamin D and folic acid either in utero or in early life may be associated with increased risk of autism.

Vitamin D deficiency may be one of the most important risk factors for several reasons. First, epidemiologic data on seasonal variation in birth rates and prevalence of autism suggest that maternal vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for ASD. Second, reduced serum vitamin D levels have been associated with alexithymia, a condition that shows high comorbidity with autism. Third, there is reasonable theoretical support for a role of vitamin D in the etiology of ASD. Activated vitamin D upregulates the DNA repair gene, and vitamin deficiency during development may inhibit the repair of de novo DNA mutations during early fetal development. This would be in line with data from genetic studies showing an increased prevalence of rare mutations and copy number variation in autism. In addition, vitamin D may reduce the severity of autism through its antiinflammatory actions, increasing T-regulatory cells and antiautoimmune effects and upregulating glutathione, a scavenger of oxidative byproducts, thus contributing to a decreased risk of autism.

Here we present a case with ASD and vitamin D3 deficiency in whom supplementation of vitamin D3 had a marked effect on the core symptoms of autism.

Now consider that in the last few decades there has been a near paranoia about sun exposure with folks slathering their kids, and themselves, in all sorts of UV blockers before getting some sun…

Season with the reputation of ASD as “Geeks Disease” in Silicon Valley where there is the stereotype of a Geek at a computer terminal never seeing the sun… and where both Mom and Dad may well be indoors almost constantly, and dutifully keeping the kid out of the sun or covering them in sunscreen.

Now just where will they get their D3 from? Cod Liver Oil, while applied liberally by my Mum, is no longer in fashion.

When is their often “onset”? Just about the time a toddler is reducing milk intake and transitioning away from Vit D “enriched” milk and on to “solid foods” with typically little fish intake (so not much fish oil either).

Then what do we do with ‘wee ones’ who show ADSD symptoms? We tend to corral them inside “where they can’t get hurt” and certainly not let them run loose in the yard or bask in the sun… They also tend to very narrow diets that, I’d wager, do not tend to fish liver oil…

It just kind of fits.

Known risk factors

Risk factors for autism include:

Environmental toxins (exposure to chemicals and heavy metals), [2]
Genetic predisposition (children are at a 20% increased risk for ASD if their sibling is also affected),
Parents over the age of 35 years,[3]
Taking certain medications that interfere with vitamin D metabolism during pregnancy, such as valproate, [4]
Complications during pregnancy and delivery.

There are numerous other risk factors, both genetic and environmental, but most researchers now believe there is an unidentified factor exists that interacts with both genes and the environment. [5] In his book, Dr. Cannell makes the case that vitamin D is that factor.

So who is most likely to be out at the beach or riding their bike: A 20 something new mom, or a 40 something late one?

Who is more likely to be outdoors jogging in the sun: A vital 20 something or a person with “metabolic disorder”?

The link between vitamin D and autism

In 2008, Dr. John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council published a paper on the link between autism and vitamin D. [6] This was the first published paper suggesting that vitamin D was associated with autism. The paper provided evidence for this relationship, such as an increased prevalence of autism in the USA in regions of greater cloud cover and rainfall. Also, in the United States, the rate of autism for children ages 6 to 17 years is highest in the regions of the country with the lowest solar UVB doses. [7] Whether this variation is due solely to vitamin D production or other factors of sunlight in addition to vitamin D production cannot be determined from this geographical ecological study.

Autism is also more common in areas with impaired UVB production, such as areas with high air pollution. Also, people who are dark skinned experience an increased risk for both vitamin D deficiency and autism.

A study conducted in the Faroe Islands found that those with ASD had lower vitamin D levels than their parents or siblings. [8] Most, but not all, studies have found children with ASD have lower levels of vitamin D than do typically developing controls. [9] According to several studies, more children with autism are born during the spring, which is the time of year with the lowest vitamin D levels in northern latitudes. [10]

In a groundbreaking discovery, researchers in Sweden have determined that children who later develop ASD had lower vitamin D levels at birth than their typically developing siblings do. [11] This helps rules out, but doesn’t entirely disprove, environmental factors as a cause of lower 25(OH)D levels in ASD children; it does suggest that heritability in vitamin D metabolism may cause the lower 25(OH)D levels at birth. Vitamin D levels at birth are dependent on the mother’s vitamin D levels, and one would think that a mother’s vitamin D levels would not drastically change from one pregnancy to the next. Therefore, this study suggests that the heritability of 25(OH)D, which ranges from 30% to 70% in different studies, is the genetic/environmental factor scientists have long sought in ASD.

Also, in another innovative study, Schmidt et al discovered that certain genes associated with lowered vitamin D blood levels are also associated with autism. [12] However, a Mendelian randomization study (where scientists study thousands of people for genetic defects in vitamin D metabolism to see if those genes are associated with autism) has not yet been done.

In the original, each of those references to a study is a link.

Maternal vitamin D deficiency and the risk of autism spectrum disorders: population-based study
Cecilia Magnusson, Michael Lundberg, Brian K. Lee, Dheeraj Rai, Håkan Karlsson, Renee Gardner, Kyriaki Kosidou, Stefan Arver, Christina Dalman

British Journal of Psychiatry Open Apr 2016, 2 (2) 170-172; DOI: 10.1192/bjpo.bp.116.002675


Background Maternal vitamin D deficiency may increase risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but direct evidence is lacking.

Aims To clarify the relationship between maternal vitamin D deficiency and offspring risk of ASD with and without intellectual disability.

Method Using a register-based total population study (N=509 639), we calculated adjusted odds ratios (aORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of ASD with and without intellectual disability in relation to lifetime diagnoses of maternal vitamin D deficiency. Although rare, such deficiency was associated with offspring risk of ASD with, but not without, intellectual disability (aORs 2.51, 95% CI 1.22–5.16 and 1.28, 0.68–2.42). Relationships were stronger in non-immigrant children.

Conclusions If reflecting associations for prenatal hypovitaminosis, these findings imply gestational vitamin D substitution as a means of ASD prevention.

Declaration of interest None.

Copyright and usage © The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2016. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Non-Commercial, No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND) licence.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are developmental disorders associated with a high individual and societal burden, but their aetiology is poorly understood. Environmental and genetic factors appear equally important,1 although ASD with and without intellectual disability may in part have different origins.2,3

In high-latitude countries such as Sweden, children of mothers with dark complexion are at particularly elevated risk of ASD with intellectual disability.3 Because such women often have very low vitamin D levels due to melanin absorption of UVB radiation, maternal vitamin D deficiency has been suggested to contribute to ASD risk in offspring.4,5 Indeed, experimentally induced vitamin D deficiency in pregnant dams is reported to affect foetal neurodevelopment and behaviour in adult offspring in rats,4 and a recent study demonstrated lower neonatal vitamin D levels in children with ASD compared with their siblings.

Early life vitamin D deficiency is thus a possible risk factor for ASD, but direct support of an association is lacking.4 Maternal hypovitaminosis D is treatable, thus investigation of the matter is warranted. We report here on the relationship between secondary care diagnosis of lifetime maternal vitamin D deficiency and offspring risk of ASD with and without intellectual disability, while addressing the influence of ethnicity. We use data from the Stockholm Youth Cohort (SYC), which allow for detailed case ascertainment in the total population of young people in Stockholm, Sweden.

The simple fact is that taking a vitamin supplement to raise your Vit D level is just not a very good way to do it. There are several different kinds of Vit D and what is in the bottle is often not ideal. Then there is the dose. Supplements often are in the low 100s of IU while a bit of sun time can create 10,000 scale IU (and of the right kind, that best used by mammals, too).

What has been one of THE biggest hallmarks of our last 1/2 century of “modernization”? People who never see the sun. We live inside a box, walk through the garage to our cars with UV blocking windows, drive to work and if we don’t park in an underground parking structure, make a quick dash to the entrance; then sit in a UV deprived environment until we drive home (often in the dark). Rinse and repeat. We expect the milk in our coffee to provide what is missing… /sarc;

I know my spouse and son both have mild SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and we’ve bought UV lamps for each to assure that “stays away”. I try to “get some sun” whenever possible simply because I feel better then. I prefer places like California, Arizona, and Florida precisely because I can spend more time out in the sun. Pale skin, freckles and all.

Perhaps we have set the Vit D dietary requirements way too low for the modern life patterns. Perhaps especially so with the added metabolic and nutritional demands of pregnancy?

Maternal Vitamin D Levels May Prevent Autism In Kids
March 26, 2017 Author: Gaurav Shingala

Intake of Vitamin D supplements during the first trimester of pregnancy is likely to prevent the development of autism traits in children, researchers found in a study on mice.

Autism — or autism spectrum disorder — describes lifelong developmental disabilities including difficulty or inability to communicate with others and interact socially.

The discovery provides further evidence of the crucial role Vitamin D plays in brain development, said lead researcher Darryl Eyles, Professor at University of Queensland.

“We found that pregnant females treated with active vitamin D in the equivalent of the first trimester of pregnancy produced offspring that did not develop these deficits,” Eyles added.

Further, recent human studies also showed a link between pregnant women with low Vitamin D levels — also crucial for maintaining healthy bones — and the increased likelihood of having a child with autistic traits, the researchers said.

For the study, appearing in journal the Molecular Autism, the team used the most widely accepted developmental model of autism in which affected mice behave abnormally and show deficits in social interaction, basic learning and stereotyped behaviours.

The researchers also revealed that the active hormonal form of Vitamin D cannot be given to pregnant women because it may affect the skeleton of the developing foetus.

New studies are needed to determine how much cholecalciferol — the supplement form that is safe for pregnant women — is needed to achieve the same levels of active hormonal Vitamin D in the bloodstream, the researchers said.

Sun exposure is the major source of Vitamin D — which skin cells manufacture in response to ultraviolet rays — but it is also found in some foods such as in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, diary products, and cereals.

How about we just park “mum to be” in the sun for a while, eh?

Vitamin D treatment during pregnancy prevents autism-related phenotypes in a mouse model of maternal immune activation

Stephanie Vuillermot†, Wei Luan†, Urs Meyer and Darryl EylesEmail author

†Contributed equally
Molecular Autism: Brain, Cognition and Behavior 2017 8:9

DOI: 10.1186/s13229-017-0125-0
© The Author(s). 2017 Received: 17 September 2016 Accepted: 21 February 2017

Published: 7 March 2017



Prenatal exposure to infection is a recognized environmental risk factor for neuropsychiatric disorders of developmental origins such as autism or schizophrenia.
Experimental work in animals indicates that this link is mediated by maternal immune activation (MIA) involving interactions between cytokine-associated inflammatory events, oxidative stress, and other pathophysiological processes such as hypoferremia and zinc deficiency. Maternal administration of the viral mimic polyriboinosinic-polyribocytidylic acid (poly(I:C)) in mice produces several behavioral phenotypes in adult offspring of relevance to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Yet despite knowing that early infection exposure “causes issues” we insist on massive immune challenges to infants with multiple vaccinations at ever younger ages? Perhaps we ought to give the kids some time in the sun and / or test their Vit D levels (and the attendant reduction of inflammatory response) before we shoot them up with that much challenge? Maybe, just maybe, those “anecdotal” onset of ASD with immunizations is telling us which kids have a low vitamin D history and are especially susceptible to such challenge related damage? The interaction of a Vit D trigger and a challenge pull… IMHO, worth investigating. It would tend to explain the supposed mercury (heavy metals in general) link too. Neither one causal alone, but stimulative of the underlying issue in a select population.


Here, we investigated whether some of these phenotypes might also present in juveniles. In addition, given the known immunomodulatory and neuroprotective effects of vitamin D, we also investigated whether the co-administration of vitamin D could block MIA-induced ASD-related behaviors. We co-administered the hormonally active form of vitamin D, 1α,25 dihydroxy vitamin D3 (1,25OHD), simultaneously with poly(I:C) and examined (i) social interaction, stereotyped behavior, emotional learning and memory, and innate anxiety-like behavior in juveniles and (ii) the levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α in maternal plasma and fetal brains.


We show that like adult offspring that were exposed to MIA, juveniles display similar deficits in social approach behavior. Juvenile MIA offspring also show abnormal stereotyped digging and impaired acquisition and expression of tone-cued fear conditioning. Importantly, our study reveals that prenatal administration of 1,25OHD abolishes all these behavioral deficits in poly(I:C)-treated juveniles. However, prenatal administration of vitamin D had no effect on pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in dams or in fetal brains suggesting the anti-inflammatory actions of vitamin D are not the critical mechanism for its preventive actions in this ASD animal model.


This work raises the possibility that early dietary supplementation with vitamin D may open new avenues for a successful attenuation or even prevention of neurodevelopmental disorders following maternal inflammation during pregnancy.

Epidemiologic evidence supporting the role of maternal vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for the development of infantile autism.
Grant WB, Soles CM.


This study examines whether maternal vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for infantile autism disease (IAD). We used epidemiologic data seasonal variation of birth rates and prevalence of IAD for cohorts born before 1985. For seven studies reporting spring-to-summer excess birth rates for IAD, the season progressed from broad near 30 degrees N latitude, spring/summer in midlatitudes, to winter at the highest latitude. Also, using data from 10 studies, we found a strong effective latitudinal (related to wintertime solar ultraviolet B radiation) increase in IAD prevalence. These findings are consistent with maternal vitamin D deficiency’s being a risk factor for IAD, possibly by affecting fetal brain development as well as possibly by affecting maternal immune system status during pregnancy. Further investigation of this hypothesis is warranted.

It sure looks like a fair amount of evidence is stacking up. So if you know a “mom in the making”, perhaps having some beach time, pool time, or just a walk in the sun would be A Good Thing. At least get a Vit D test done to determine if levels are normal.

I don’t think I’d go so far as to buy a “Lizard Lamp” (they need UV too…) unless advised to up your game by an M.D. ;-) but certainly don’t avoid the sun and especially in winter or up north don’t slather on gobs of sunscreen every time you step outside…

Oh, and maybe develop a fondness for “Fish and Chips” ( I doubt anyone can develop a fondness for Cod Liver Oil, though I did like the C.L.O. pills my Mum fed me… )

For my money, the variation with season, with melanin levels of population at high latitude, and the mouse direct response are pretty strong evidence of some kind of solar / Vit D level impact.

Well, I think I’m going to take my mid morning tea out on the patio in the sun… That suppression of inflammatory response sounds good to these old joints ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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27 Responses to Vitamin D and Autism (Spectrum Disorder)

  1. tom0mason says:

    I see that exposure to sunlight have many and various effect – not just vit D production. For instance it also causes nitric oxide production/control. See

    Scientists at the University of Edinburgh discovered that when sunlight touches your skin, nitric oxide is released into your bloodstream,1 and nitric oxide is a powerful blood pressure lowering compound.

    Researchers have concluded sun exposure may even prolong your life by significantly cutting your heart attack/stroke risk. The abstract for the study was published online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology on April 15, 2013.2

    The Edinburgh researchers mentioned an absolutely stunning statistic. For every one skin cancer death in northern Europe, between 60 and 100 people die from stroke or heart disease, related to hypertension.

    So I wonder what are the total effects for the infant…

  2. Tim says:

    Ah, Coggy Oy Oy. I was too young to pronounce Cod Liver Oil during the war years and was fed it in Malt extract and so couldn’t get enough of it. Thanks Mum! Nowadays I avoid all those sun lotions, though pestered by my better half.

  3. cdquarles says:

    I recall Cod Liver Oil quite well. My grandmother believed in it. Being a born & raised Southerner, and one who had to do outdoors chores and play (Get Out of the House. Be Back by Sundown, or Else!). Also being an American Mutt, have no problems with a bit of sun, at least prior to needing immune suppressants that came with a solar induced photodermatitis warning, potentially life threatening at that. Flip side is that Vitamin D is fat soluble. It has a different set of pharmacokinetics than the water soluble vitamins have. Vitamin D is poisonous at high acute doses and even not so high doses if ingested chronically (so, don’t go eating polar bear or some shark liver, the A and D there is potentially lethal). Typical OTC D3 capsules have 1000IU in them, thus reasonably safe for 95% of us. I also happen to like fish, oily or not.

  4. cdquarles says:

    Thinking about this, EM, brought to mind something that has been gnawing at me for years, ever since ‘evidence based’ medicine became a fad. MD/OD problem: How to convert population based statistics, that will very likely not apply to said sample of one, into useful information for both the doc and the patient. Compound that with the natural effect of government owned/dominated medical care. You are an outlier and likely ‘too expensive’ to the bureaucratic bean counters that control things. What to do? Be honest? Gaslight the patient, hoping that you are doing less harm (can’t be none most of the time)? Fight the system? Retire? Yeah, that’s the ticket. Retire.

  5. cdquarles says:

    Hey tom, local nitric oxide production is a part of the acute phase reaction. Dilating small blood vessels, and loosening the intercellular adhesion allow blood borne cellular and ‘humoral’ aka soluble/suspended chemicals to get to the spot. Flip side: nitric oxide is a strong oxidizer that can contribute to local cholesterol oxidation (also a part of the acute phase reaction) as well as pushing damaged cells into apoptosis (programmed cell death). The immune system’s dance is pretty intricate. Too far on one side, it is insufficient and the body dies from an overwhelming infection. Too far on the other, it is excessive and the body may die from a massive apoptosis via DIC (diffuse intravascular coagulation). Mortal Man, whose body is doomed to die. Sooner or later, the embodied life will end. Pushing down one set of causes may result in others becoming more common, though survivor bias.

  6. Pingback: Vitamin D and Autism (Spectrum Disorder) | Musings from the Chiefio | Cranky Old Crow

  7. John F. Hultquist says:

    An issue with health is that it seems like people on a boat all going from side to side at the same time and then wondering why the thing seems unstable. Remember “Don’t eat butter”?
    And some kid liked Tuna, so the mother allowed him to eat 3 or 4 cans a day — and nothing else. That’s more per day than a small person should eat in a month.
    Anyway, more sun time may be a good thing (I hope so in this instance) but it is hard to fix stupid, so medical professionals will need to be aggressive with the ‘more is not better’ advice.

  8. Larry Ledwick says:

    Hmmm interesting control study would be to look at occurrence of autism in Muslim countries where women are required to wear the full black niqab or Burka and seldom leave the house. Unless their diet supplied vitamin D it would seem this would be an ideal control group.

  9. E.M.Smith says:


    Wondrr if that might explain some of the repetitive obsessive behaviors of recitation of the koran… over and over and … then the big tendency to “temper tantrums” at the drop of a hat…

    One problem of them as controls is they live in extremely sunny places. 20 minutes on the face only is “enough”… there is also a lot of dairy in the diet (middle east origin for kifir and yogurt IIRC).

    Though comparing the “immigrants” in Sweden to the locals ought to be a pretty good test case.

  10. Larry Ledwick says:

    The Niqab and Burka essentially preclude even direct sun on the face. More info would be needed about customary behavior of pregnant women in those cultures are they essentially restricted to the home during pregnancy? Are their dietary restrictions during pregnancy in that culture.

    It would also be interesting to get an idea of the typical dietary vitamine D intake on their traditional diet.

    Or we could be looking for strictly observant, vegan Muslims in Sweden ;)

    The other question is would this sort of genetic/dietary influence tend to accumulate through multiple generations? Is the influence (tendency to autism) carried by the mother or the father?
    Is the dietary deficiency only important during a specific trimester of the pregnancy etc.

    Some medical researcher could make a career out of sorting out that puzzle.

  11. Quail says:

    Unfortunately, the Islamic custom of marrying cousins may bias that study.

  12. Rhoda Klapp says:

    It seems this old song is backed by observation. I grew up listening to the Burl Ives version:

    I’m a young married man and I’m tired of life
    Ten years I’ve been wed to a pale sickly wife,
    She’s nothing to do only sit there and cry
    Praying and praying to God she would die.
    A friend of my own came to see me one day
    He told me my wife she was pining away
    He afterwards told me that she would get strong
    If I get a bottle from dear Dr John.

    Oh doctor, oh doctor, oh dear Dr John
    Your cod liver oil is so pure and so strong
    I’m afraid of my life, I’ll go down in the soil
    If me wife don’t stop drinking your cod liver oil.

    I bought her a bottle, well just for to try
    And the way that she drank it you’d think she might die
    I bought her another, it vanished the same
    And then she got cod liver oil on the brain.
    I bought her another, she drank it no doubt,
    And then she began to get terrible stout,
    And when she got stout well of course she got strong
    And I became jealous of dear Dr John.

    Oh doctor, oh doctor, oh dear Dr John
    Your cod liver oil is so pure and so strong
    I’m afraid of my life, I’ll go down in the soil
    If me wife don’t stop drinking your cod liver oil.

    Me house it resembles a great doctor’s shop
    Its covered in bottles from bottom to top
    Well early the morning the kettle does boil
    You would swear it was singing of cod liver oil.

    Oh doctor, oh doctor, oh dear Dr John
    Your cod liver oil is so pure and so strong
    I’m afraid of my life, I’ll go down in the soil
    If me wife don’t stop drinking
    Oh doctor, oh doctor, oh dear Dr John
    Your cod liver oil is so pure and so strong
    I’m afraid of my life, I’ll go down in the soil
    If me wife don’t stop drinking your cod liver oil.

  13. waterside4 says:

    I believe that Rickets is a growing problem among the Muslim female (growing) population in the UK and presumably in other Northern countries.
    This is obviously due to a lack of exposure to sunlight.
    It could also account for the dearth of solar electricity in Birmingham an Bradford.

  14. wyoskeptic says:

    E.M.Smith: I am HFA (high functioning autistic). For a simple description, I have mild Aspergers. It is a late life discovery. I spent fifty years trying to find out why I was different, why I had difficulty with relationships, why when a dating situation ended as always (badly) I was relieved instead of upset (I was happier spending time alone) and so on. I spent a lot time and angst trying to get an answer from the mental health industry which did not have clue one about what was up with me.
    I was also a life long smoker. Both parents smoked, all my siblings smoked. I am sure that my mother smoked all through having me. In short, for 59 years I was subject to smoke, either second hand growing up or 1-2 packs a day once I was old enough. I quit at age 59. For the first time in my life I was without nicotine in my system. Not long after, I began to experience several things: increasing dementia symptoms (short term memory loss, inability to recall long term memories, could not recall the word I wanted when I knew I knew it but it was just blank) alterations in the way food and liquids tasted: (in short everything tasted like crap), inability to concentrate (autism = OCD issues, changed to ADD with no nic),to name a few. One evening I made a wrong turn in the town I have lived in most of my life and I could not recognize where I was. (Scared the beejeejuz out of me Alzheimer’s coming on to take me away.)
    I went back onto nicotine via the patch. (There are some stories from parents about using patches to improve autistic children’s daily lives and some research that suggests autism might be related to having too few nicotine/acetylcholine receptors in the brain vs smokers having too many.) Anyway, the immediate symptoms were relieved, taken back to what normal old age brings on. I experimented and found that using the higher dose patches brought on more OCD issues while reduced doses brought on more ADD issues. I can tell when I need more nicotine simply by the way tap water tastes. It starts tasting funny, I need an extra patch.
    A good chunk of my HFA, I suspect, was due to smoking. Cigarette smoking, I believe, was self medication and a good chunk of the reason why quitting was nearly impossible for me for so many years.
    At the same time, I have long dealt with depression issues. One of the things I have used in order to deal with the depression is Vitamin D3. (D3 is recognized as being the preferred form to be circulating in the system.) There is a fair bit of research that the USDA recommended daily dose is way too low. Anyway, I currently take 7000 IU per day and the problems with depression is considerably reduced. One thing to point out is that this idea of 20 minutes exposure to the sun is currently in challenge. For one thing, vitamin D is produced in the outer layer of skin cells when UV light interacts with Cholesterol. In then takes time for this to work its way into the lower layers where it can be transferred to the rest of the body. Vitamin D3 is a fat soluble molecule, so it takes a certain amount of fat available to be transferred throughout the body. With the latest medical advice, cholesterol is on the no-no list and meds are used to reduce these levels, possibly reducing the ability of the skin cells to produce Vit D. The time delay to transfer to the lower skin layers means the Vit D is subject to be washed away. Since it is fat soluble, washing with soap and water soon after exposure means it can be washed away instead of absorbed. (Washing with just water removes less.) Sweat is more than just water released from the body, it also contains fatty compounds which is the reason for body odors. Bacteria fed by the fats in sweat is often what leads to BO. Sweating (or the fats in the sweat) can possibly remove Vit D, therefore. Left on the skin, it might only be redistributed around the body.
    Long story short, anti-cholesterol efforts, sun blockers, current bathing practices among many other things all lead toward reducing Vit D. Efforts in diet control which is directed toward removing fats and oils from the diet interfere with circulation of Vit D. Vit D tends to be stored in fat tissue, so obesity tends to collect Vit D and prevent it from circulation until fasting or some circumstance causes fat reduction.
    In short most of the latest and greatest medical “advice” re diet and sun exposure may actually be causing the exact opposite of what it is intended. For one thing, it is pretty well recognized that Vitamin D is very good at preventing and/or repairing genetic damage. UVB is accused of causing skin cancer. Consider: Vit D is produced in the outer layer of skin cells and moves through the layers into the body. UVB damages skin cells and Vitamin D repairs them. Unless of course, someone washes away the D by way of washing away the sweat from being in the sun. (Consider the early days where someone would wash by swimming in the creek … no soap back then. Also minimum clothing so much, much more skin exposed.)
    One of the ares that possibly needs exploration is the effect on the brain of Vitamin D3, particularly with autistic individuals.
    I can personally verify that nicotine makes an incredible difference.
    Any way with nic patches and Vit D3, I am now living and feeling the best I have in a long, long time. And it is a simple process to make sure that I am not imagining things. All I have to do is stop taking and in fairly short order, the bad times come back. Start taking it again and it improves. And it is not just a placebo effect since it is quantifiable. Cut it in half and the bad does not get as bad as cutting it out completely.
    Oh, one other observation. There seems to be a lot of support and some research on children with autism. However once someone who is autistic is out of school, it all ends. There is nothing and no one to lend any support, research or any other efforts for adults with autism.
    Adults with autism are on their own. Particularly severe in the more rural, less urban areas.

  15. Power Grab says:

    Re: “The other question is would this sort of genetic/dietary influence tend to accumulate through multiple generations? Is the influence (tendency to autism) carried by the mother or the father?
    Is the dietary deficiency only important during a specific trimester of the pregnancy etc.”

    Dr. Weston A. Price’s work in general revealed that the fat-soluble vitamins (especially A and D) have a huge impact on a successful pregnancy and the baby’s health. He found that both the father and the mother need to have sufficient stores of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals (even at the point of conception) to ensure a healthy baby is born.

    I am a member of both the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Price-Pottenger Foundation. The journal I just received this week from the Price-Pottenger Foundation has an article that discusses pregnancy and vitamin D. The president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Sally Fallon-Morrell, has published a book about nutrition for having healthy babies and raising healthy children using Dr. Price’s principles.

    If I wanted to learn about how this works, I would start with those resources. One would learn a lot of politically-incorrect information about how people traditionally have learned to have healthy babies, generation after generation.

    Personally, I am seriously concerned that the Muslims have been sold a bill of goods. Why anyone would move from their high-sunlight environment to the colder, darker northern climes when we’re about to drop into an ice age is beyond me. In his web site, Robert Felix makes a good argument for what I just said about an ice age. I know many don’t think it’s going to happen. But the things Mr. Felix has been predicting, and the mechanism for how it can happen, are what we are seeing happen, not what Al Gore predicted.

    On the other hand, I guess if you’re a person who wants to greatly reduce the population of the planet and empty out the latitudes that naturally receive more warmth while you’re at it, then that might make you pursue such a strategy. If northerners decide to move to the warmer latitudes when it freezes up north, then you probably would want the younger, stronger members of society down there to have removed themselves. Ya think?

  16. wyoskeptic says:

    Power Grab re Weston A Price. I have a copy of his Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and have skimmed it. I am giving it a much deeper look. It is a fascinating work. One thing in particular is his discussion of butter (grass fed) and cod liver oil. I have recently began drinking Keto coffee/tea, sometimes called Bulletproof coffee or tea, which consists of coffee or tea brewed normally and mixed with butter, coconut oil, and heavy whipping cream. (It is based originally, as I understand, on Yak butter tea.) Some people run it through a blender or use a mixer to turn it frothy. I don’t bother with that. It took a little getting used to, but now I find it is great in helping reduce problems with my efforts in dieting to lose weight.
    Cut back the calories and you do not have the energy to do much while always being hungry. I find that putting the natural fats and oils back into the diet and removing a lot of the carbs, refined sugar especially, makes it lot easier to loose weight and then stabilize the weight loss so it does not come back. In addition it reduces craving and gives me a lot more energy to be active, which helps in loosing weight.
    Current dietary guidelines, I feel, cause more harm than good.

  17. Power Grab says:

    @ wyoskeptic: I know! That book is a real eye-opener! After reading it, I can no longer look at faces the same way as before.

  18. wyoskeptic says:

    E.M. re “Though comparing the “immigrants” in Sweden to the locals ought to be a pretty good test case.”…
    From the above link
    Several years back, studies in Sweden and Minnesota found that Somali immigrants suffered rates of autism and autism spectrum disorder much, much higher than the local Caucasian children. The Somali communities in both countries were understandably concerned but also surprised by this illness, one they had never experienced before immigrating. In Minnesota, the Somali community refers to autism as the “Minnesota Disease”. In Sweden, they call it the “Swedish Disease”.

    In 2010 the University of Minnesota and the CDC, with support from Autism Speaks, studied Minnesota children, seeking links between ASD and vitamin D. They found that white children in Minnesota had a rate of autism nearly three times the national average and that the rate in Somali children was higher still.

    Slowly but surely the evidence is starting to accumulate.

  19. tom0mason says:


    Thanks for the update, as my Grandma used to say “Enough is sufficient, and no more.”

  20. E.M.Smith says:


    Those matched populations in Minnesota and Sweden are pretty convincing.

    BTW, over the years I’ve eaten nearly every diet out there at one time or another (often as moral support for family and friends as they did something or other.)

    Vegetarian, all meat, high fat, low fat, no suger, high carbs, low carbs, etc etc.

    My only conclusions are:

    1) I can live OK to well on just about anything for months.
    2) All pure meat gets boring and has a bit of hump to get over to get to benign dietary ketosis. Then is ok for a long time.
    3) High suger high carbs is hard on the teeth and can put me into a hypoglycemic like state if done long enough and with daily sugar spikes. Not a normal condition for me and resolves with slower digesting things, like meat.
    4) A mixed diet of meats, vegetables, and starches has no bad effects.
    5) Greens are very helpful in the issues of an all meat diet (fibre and vitamins) and high sugar and starch diet (slows absorption and vitamins).
    6) Fruit is nice with anything, but only seems to influence the high sugar diet in that it adds sugar.

    So for my money, the only real news is to eat more greens as they work in any diet without screwing up the theme of it (that is, has no sugar, fat, or starch to speak of) yet makes me feel better and things move better and adds vitamins. A bit of fruit is always nice and is so dilute as to not do much. A basic meat, vegetable, starch diet is fine, but any two from the list is ok for long periods of tine. Fats are necessary, especially fish oils, but it takes a very long time for deficiency symptoms to show up.

    In general, eating French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, or Indian seem best, but Mexican works fine too. Northern European seems fine, but I’ve not restricted to it for long times, so can’t say for sure.

    Long term Vegan seems to cause a “wasting” and gaunt aspect (observed relatives and others) and seems to promote a kind of cranky intolerant aspect. I suspect long term fatty acid imbalances and perhaps other issues (vitamins? Amino acids?). Bill Clinton got his current gaunt look after going vegan. Yet the practitioners profess feeling better despite looking worse. Don’t suggest otherwise unless you don’t want to speak with them again…

  21. Larry Ledwick says:

    Long term Vegan seems to cause a “wasting” and gaunt aspect (observed relatives and others) and seems to promote a kind of cranky intolerant aspect.

    I suspect that is due to sub clinical protein deficiency. It is a challenge to get a proper balanced protein profile on a true vegan diet.

    The wife of a friend of mine was a confirmed vegan, (skinny as a stick) and could not get pregnant. Her doctor finally got her to start eating meat and she became pregnant shortly after, is now working a child #2.

  22. E.M.Smith says:

    A vegetarian neighbor was told by her doctor to add some fish due to health problems. Looks like Bill Clinton’s Dr. did the same.

    That choice of, in particular, fish, suggest omega-3 fatty acid issues (vegans largly restricted to flax seeds and many then don’t eat flax…). But maybe it is just that fish are less cute than sheep and cows. (But then chickens just look mean and turkeys are stupid, so who knows)

    Were it not the fatty acids, I would just recommend going ovo lacto as eggs, cheese, and yogurt have good protein content, yet don’t involve killing the animal. (Yes. I know the other reasons… I’ve lived with and cooked for vegetarians / vegans…) Only their doctors and the NSA know for sure why…

    In a search for the Bill link, several references to Chelsea being vegan showed up, and several to Hillary having one or another vegan meal. I wonder if Hillary is a closet vegan or sporadic vegan. Could explain some of the ditzy factor. (No, I’m not saying vegan must make a person ditzy. Yes I’m saying it is very hard to keep all the essential nutrients right and many folks fail so end up with issues. Hillary does not impress me as able to handle the necessary biochem knowledge to make it work. Such as flax being necessary and knowing your vegetable vitamin content plus B 12 being an issue so drinking a problem… and more…)

  23. E.M.Smith says:

    Looks like you are right. Protein:

    Clinton explained to Rachael that his physician told him that he was not getting enough good quality protein on a vegan diet. As a result, he now regularly eats fish and is particularly fond of salmon. However, he follows a Paleo-style low-carb diet that excludes dairy.

    Also looks like Chelsea fell off the wagon at 29

    Looks like fish is seen as the low fat non-cholesterol meat…

  24. DonM says:

    I can’t remember the cartoon show (maybe King of the Hill), but the line was “It’s not a lie if you lie to vegetarians”.

    Maybe the Clintons understood it as “It’s not a lie if you are a vegetarian”. Or maybe they tested the waters and found that they would generally be viewed more favorably if they were seen as being veg’s.

  25. DonM says:

    WRT to autisim … about 7 years ago I put on my overconfident attitude, acted like I new what I was talking about, and told a few people that the increase in Autism was related to prenatal care that is now practiced by almost everyone. The practice of eating those big ol’ vitamins has increased at the same rate as Autism (once you factor in the increased popularity of the diagnosis).

    I was half kidding then, but there is now a confirmed correlation with Folic Acid and Autism. Question I have now is, “how does high intake of Folic Acid act/react/relate to Vitamin D (or Vitamin D deficiency) in pregnant women (and does it carry over to the baby)?

  26. Larry Ledwick says:

    An interesting twist on this subject is found in some of my recent investigations of a weight control regimen called “intermittent fasting”. I also was researching low calorie diets and starvation from a emergency preparedness point of view. (before I started the research I figured in an emergency when you knew food was scarce you would want to strictly ration the food into several small meals a day – I no longer think that is a good strategy)

    It appears that there is a very different physiological reaction to long term low calorie intake with multiple meals a day (Minnesota starvation experiment), and short and long term fasting where you go totally off food for 12+ hours then eat a comfortable meal.

    In the case of long term low calorie consumption like you would get on an extreme vegan diet, you get wasting of body protein (loss of muscle mass), and lowered metabolism as the body decides that there is a very long term shortage of food and starts to eat itself to get adequate essential proteins if your dietary protein intake is in any way lacking.

    On the contrary, if you go on a fast (eat nothing but water) for periods longer than 12 hours to a couple days then resume your normal eating at the end of that fast cycle, the body compensates by shifting to fat metabolism and actually increasing metabolism and human growth hormone secretions to make you capable of more energy output as you temporarily harvest reserve fat so you have the strength to chase down and kill your next meal.

    It operates as if there is adequate food available (triggered by your periodic normal feasting) but it is hard to catch it.

    Body builders and so on have now adopted the periodic fasting technique to lower body fat and the physiological research of that is turning up some interesting information of the differences in how the body manages its hormones and fat reserves in the two different situations.

    It appears that if you take in just a few grams of sugars during the fast period, you “turn off” the fat mobilization accommodations of the fast, so it becomes impossible to lose weight if you eat several small meals and constantly get hungry. But if you go completely off food (like you do when you are sick) you completely suppress the hunger signal and also turn up the bodies metabolism to speed healing, build (or maintain) muscle mass, and retain high energy levels for things like running a fever or running after your next dinner.

    I have only a couple of minor quibbles with this series, as he shows the charts to back up what is actually happening physiologically. My only quibble is his claim that the body does not eat protein from the body during fasting. As we know essential proteins are (ahem – essential) your body will get them from someplace and if you are fasting the only possible sources are food already in the gut, or catabolic breakdown (protein catabolism) of other less important proteins. I suspect the body harvests protein during short term fasting from the rapidly turning over tissues like the lining of the gut, food still in the gut and even gut bacteria and sloughed body cells to repair body muscle which is critical to survival under conditions where no food is available without significant physical effort. (interesting charts in this one)
    (there are more but these cover the basic message)

    Today I went 18 hours without any food other than water, with no discomfort at all, and no real compulsion to eat. I then had a single high protein meal of 740 calories and 4 hours later I still feel full and no need or interest in eating anything else. I will try for 24 hours tomorrow. yesterday I fasted for 15 hours for the same general result ( I am working up giving my body time to ramp up the accommodations it makes with longer fasts)

    Normal reduction in calorie intakes type attempts to get my weight down where it belongs has left me stalled for months at the same plateau weight and low body energy levels (just wanted to sleep). I am right at the border line between heavy normal and low limit of obese and have always been lean until I got into my mid 60’s. I want to get back down to my ideal weight I had when I got out of high school and when I was in the military and get my energy level back up since I have a sedentary job where I mostly sit all day.

    The only thing other than water I am taking right now is a one a day vitamin with my post fast meal ( high protein high fat with some carbohydrate) and a bit of caffeine with my water in the day time fast cycle (200 mg caffeine tablet cut up to give me small caffeine hits of about 40-50 mg each 2x a day).

  27. E.M.Smith says:

    @Don M:

    I always liked King Of The Hill…

    Hmmm… folate is used to prevent spina bifida IIRC, another neural development issue…

    Perhaps the B vit increases nerve growth beyond the available D supply…



    I knew that long term calorie restriction leads to longer life span (and generally lower metabolic rate). If you want to live 50% longer, just eat a starvation diet for 6 months to a year…)

    The differential response to consistent low calories vs fast / meal is not surprising really, but I’d not anticipated it…

    I’ve been known to not bother eating for a day or so… I often will have my last meal about 5 or 6 pm and the next one after noon the following day (so about 18 hours…) and not thought of it as fasting… I also find it easier to “just not eat” than to have a few dinky snacks in a day of no meals. Guess I’m fitting the pattern ;-)

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