Food and Behaviour Research

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"Vitamin D and omega-3 reduced irritability symptoms in children with ASD"

Paul Whiteley


Vitamin D and omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of irritability and hyperactivity among children with autism spectrum disorder.

29 November 2018 - Questioning Answers


The title heading this post - "Vitamin D and omega-3 reduced irritability symptoms in children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder]" - comes from the findings reported by Hajar Mazahery and colleagues [1] discussing the results of their clinical trial. I have already mentioned the Mazahery trial before on this blog as a 'study to watch' based on the publication of their study protocol. It looks like the wait is finally over...

So, as researchers previously reported, there were four arms to this clinical trial:
  • supplementation with vitamin D alone ("2000 IU/day, VID"),
  • supplementation with an omega-3 fatty acid("722 mg/day DHA, OM"),
  • vitamin D plus fatty acid supplementation together ("2000 IU/day vitamin D + 722 mg/day DHA, VIDOM") and
  • a placebo group (olive oil).
Results are reported for over 70 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) - "VID = 19, OM = 23, VIDOM = 15, placebo = 16" - over a 12-month period, with the primary outcome being "the Aberrant Behaviour Checklist (ABC)domains of irritability and hyperactivity."

Aside from the main finding - "vitamin D and omega-3 LCPUFA [long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid]reduced irritability symptoms in children with ASD" (compared against placebo) - a few other observations are noteworthy:

"Compared to placebo, children on VID [vitamin D] also had greater reduction in hyperactivity." All this bearing in mind that the biological testing to examine for vitamin D and fatty levels reported "a good compliance rate" indicating that supplements were routinely being taken as required by the study.

Implications? Well, strike up more peer-reviewed evidence that nutrition is important not just for physiological health but also for psychological/behavioural health and wellbeing too. Add this research also to other peer-reviewed science that suggests that at least 'some autism' might be particularly 'sensitive' to elements of such nutritional medicine.

I could go on about how vitamin D in particular seems to be something important to autism. I could also go on about how fatty acids have some important evidence-based history with autism in mind. But do I really need to? Minus any medical or clinical advice given or intended, the Mazahery results really speak for themselves.