Food and Behaviour Research

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Epidemiologic evidence supporting the role of maternal vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for the development of infantile autism

Grant WB, Soles CM. (2009) Dermatoendocrinol.  1(4): 223-8. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here. Free full text of this article is available online.


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.


Animal studies have already shown that Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy leads to structural brain changes that affect subsequent development, and that some of the effects on brain and nervous system functioning are lifelong, and resemble those associated with human neurodevelopmental conditions including ADHD, autism and schizophrenia. See
Much of this research was initially triggered by the discovery of clear 'season-of-birth' effects in schizophrenia.  The current study shows that similar seasonal patterns are also apparent for autism. See also: