Maternal Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Autism in Male Offspring

Findings from an Australian Study May Explain Why ASD is More Common in Boys than Girls

A new study published in Molecular Autism suggests that maternal vitamin D deficiency could be the reason that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is more than four times more common in boys than girls. Researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute discovered that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy generated an increase in testosterone levels in the developing brains of male rats. The study’s authors also showed that in vitamin D deficient male fetuses, an enzyme that breaks down testosterone is turned off. They believe the silencing of this enzyme could be contributing to the presence of high levels of testosterone inside the fetal brain. Previous research has revealed that vitamin D plays a critical role in brain development and by supplementing mice with vitamin D during pregnancy, ASD-like traits were prevented in their offspring. This is the first study to demonstrate that vitamin D deficiency alters testosterone in both the fetal brain and the mother’s blood. This new discovery could point to a possible reason that explains why ASD is more prevalent in males than females.

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