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Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy boosts autism risk

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By David Liu PHD

Monday Nov 26, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Women who are vitamin D deficient while pregnant could have a child with autism, according to a recent review in Research in Developmental Disabilities.

The association between vitamin D deficiency and an elevated risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or simply autism has been proposed in the last few years.  The current review was intended to confirm an association between vitamin D deficiency and risk of autism.

Eva Ko?ovskáa at Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow in Yorkhill, Glasgow, UK and colleagues systematically reviewed data from different research groups and found evidence that supports for the possibility that vitamin D deficiency may play a central role in the pathogenesis of autism.

The researchers found at least two main areas in which vitamin D deficiency is involved in the development of autism, one is the brain and the other gene regulation.
The reviewers concluded "Vitamin D deficiency – either during pregnancy or early childhood – may be an environmental trigger for ASD in individuals genetically predisposed for the broad phenotype of autism. On the basis of the results of the present review, we argue for the recognition of this possibly important role of vitamin D in ASD, and for urgent research in the field."

Dr. John Cannell, director of vitamin D Council, has earlier reviewed the association between vitamin D deficiency and risk of autism.  Evidence suggests that vitamin D is very important for the normal brain development.

Vitamin D is available through dietary supplements or from a few foods including cold water oily fish oil such as salmon fish oil, eggs, and mushroom.  But the most abundant source of this nutrient is the U.V. rays.  Unfortunately it is not convenient to get exposed to U.V. rays, which is why many people suffer vitamin D insufficiency or vitamin D deficiency.

Of course vitamin D deficiency is not the only risk factor for autism.  Another study released recently in Journal of Neuroinflammation suggests that intake of a preservative propionic acid (PA) may increase risk of autism.

Afaf K El-Ansary at Science College, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and colleagues found propionic acid exposed rats increased oxidative stress markers or lipid peroxidation, and decreased glutathione and glutathione peroxidase and catalase activities. The preservative also increased IL-6, TNFα, IFNγ and heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) indicating that it caused neuroinflammation.

The researchers concluded "By comparing the results obtained with those from animal models of autism or with clinical data on the biochemical profile of autistic patients, this study showed that the neurotoxicity of PA as an environmental factor could play a central role in the etiology of autistic biochemical features."

Propionic acid or  propanoate (its salt) is used as a preservative to inhibit the growth of mold and bacteria in feeds and foods.

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