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Study links autism to vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy

By The Citizen

A study, published in the journal, Molecular Psychiatry, has revealed that pregnant women with low vitamin D levels when they were 20 weeks pregnant were more likely to have a child who displayed autistic traits by the age of 6. For the study, researchers analyzed approximately 4,200 blood samples from pregnant women and their children in the Netherlands.

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, and people often get it from being exposed to the sun. However, it's also possible to get doses of the vitamin from some foods and vitamin supplements.

Autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are terms for a group of disorders of brain development, according to the autism awareness organisation Autism Speaks. The disorders are characterized by 'difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.' ASD may be linked to 'intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention, and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal issues,' the organisation says.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 68 children has the disorder, and it's 4.5 times more common in boys than girls.

Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is fairly common in pregnant women, women's health expert Jennifer Wider, tells Yahoo Beauty. According to data from the American Pregnancy Association, between 40 and 60 percent of the entire U.S. population is vitamin D deficient, and those numbers include pregnant women.

While prenatal vitamins include vitamin D, Wider notes that average versions contain about 400 IU of the vitamin, which may not be enough. 'After this study and others like it, doctors will likely recommend supplementation,' she says.