Washington D.C.: For mommies-to-be, taking vitamin D supplements during first trimester of pregnancy may prevent autism traits in their newborns, suggests a study conducted on mice.
Autism — or autism spectrum disorder — describes lifelong developmental disabilities including difficulty or inability to communicate with others and interact socially. The University of Queensland researchers in Australia provided evidence of the crucial role that vitamin D plays in brain development,
“Our study 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,” said lead researcher Darryl Eyles.
“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.
The team had recently found a link between pregnant women with low Vitamin D levels and the increased likelihood of having a child with autistic traits. Sun exposure is the major source of vitamin D — which skin cells manufacture in response to UV rays — but it is also found in some foods.
Vitamin D was crucial for maintaining healthy bones, but the active hormonal form of vitamin D cannot be given to pregnant women because it may affect the skeleton of the developing foetus,” said study’s postdoctoral researcher Dr Wei Luan.
“Recent funding will now allow us 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,” said Dr Luan.
This new information will allow us to further investigate the ideal dose and timing of vitamin D supplementation for pregnant women. New funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council will allow the researchers to continue to study how vitamin D protects against autism.