Vitamin D the clue to more autism spectrum disorder in boys
11 December 2020
A deficiency in vitamin D on the mother’s side could explain why autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is three times more common in boys, say researchers from The University of Queensland.
In their latest study, Professor Darryl Eyles and Dr Asad Ali from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute found vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy caused an increase in testosterone in the developing brain of male rats.
“The biological cause of autism spectrum disorder is unknown but we have shown that one of the many risk factors—low vitamin D in mothers—causes an increase in testosterone in the brain of the male foetuses, as well as the maternal blood and amniotic fluid,” Professor Eyles said.
“In addition to its role in calcium absorption, vitamin D is crucial to many developmental processes.
“Our research also showed that in vitamin D-deficient male foetuses, an enzyme which breaks down testosterone was silenced and could be contributing to the presence of high testosterone levels.”
Professor Eyles’ previous research has shown that vitamin D plays a critical role in brain development and that giving vitamin D supplements to mice during pregnancy completely prevented ASD-like traits in their offspring.
The University of Queensland UQ News