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Are There Vitamin D Benefits for Autistic Children?

June 12, 2024

In 2008, Dr. John Cannell, MD, Founder of Vitamin D Council, published the first paper suggesting a relationship between low vitamin D status and an increased risk of autism. But are there really vitamin D benefits to autistic children?

Are There Vitamin D Benefits for Autistic Children?

Dr. Cannell created his hypothesis based on the data that illustrated an increased prevalence of autism in the regions of greater cloud cover and rainfall. This article will discover whether or not vitamin D benefits influence children with autism or if it’s simply a hypothesis yet to be confirmed.

The Role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D, often called the “sunshine vitamin,” is crucial in maintaining overall health. It is responsible for various bodily functions, including bone health, immune system support, and maintaining healthy skin. But what makes it particularly relevant for children with autism?

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Bone Health

One of the most well-known functions of Vitamin D is its role in maintaining strong bones. A deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to weakened bones, increasing the risk of fractures and bone-related disorders.

Children with autism may already face challenges with motor skills, making bone health a critical concern. According to a 2023 article published by the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the bone health issues in autistic children are likely due to nutritional deficiencies, reduced physical activity, or even certain medications.

Brain Development

A 2020 study published by Frontiers suggests a link between Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and an increased risk of autism in children. While more research is needed to establish a concrete connection, it highlights the potential impact of this vitamin on brain development.

Mood Regulation

Vitamin D is believed to play a role in mood regulation. Children with autism may experience mood swings or anxiety, and optimizing their Vitamin D levels could help manage these challenges.

Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an important role in our overall mental and physical health. But how do we ensure that our loved ones on the spectrum obtain enough of this vitamin naturally? Let’s explore the most common ways.


The most natural source of Vitamin D is sunlight. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces Vitamin D. However, factors such as geographical location, skin tone, and sun protection practices can influence the amount of Vitamin D our bodies generate from sunlight.

Dietary Sources

Vitamin D can also be obtained through certain foods, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, and tuna), fortified dairy products, and egg yolks. However, it can be challenging for children, especially picky eaters, to get sufficient Vitamin D from their diet alone.


In cases where natural sources and dietary intake are insufficient, Vitamin D supplements can be recommended under medical supervision. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation regimen. They can assess your child’s specific needs and recommend the right dosage.

In 2008, Dr. John Cannell unveiled an innovative research paper. This groundbreaking publication proposed a potential connection between reduced vitamin D levels and a heightened susceptibility to autism. Dr. Cannell formulated his theory by examining data highlighting a higher occurrence of autism in areas with less UVB light.

According to him, children with ASD have lower vitamin D levels than children without ASD, which was later confirmed in a 2020 study published by MDPI. Dr. Cannell suggested that vitamin D supplementation may benefit children with ASD. However, more research is needed to confirm this hypothesis.

In 2016, the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry published an article that studied the effects of Vitamin D on autism. It showed that autism symptoms of the children improved significantly following 4‐month vitamin D3 supplementation. However, the article has been retracted due to concerns about the reliability of the findings.

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Are There Vitamin D Benefits for Autism?

Research on the potential benefits of vitamin D for autism is ongoing. Still, no conclusive evidence suggests vitamin D can be used as a standalone treatment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

However, vitamin D does play a crucial role in overall health, including brain development and function, and some studies have explored its potential relevance to autism.

According to a 2022 study published by Frontiers, children with autism who have low vitamin D levels can see improvements in their autism symptoms when their vitamin D levels increase. However, because different studies use different methods, there haven’t been enough consistent results to say whether vitamin D can be used as a treatment for autism.


Scientists agree – to understand the link between vitamin D and autism, we must conduct many high-quality scientific experiments. If future research confirms a connection between vitamin D and autism, it could provide a simple, inexpensive, and safe way to help prevent and treat autism.

However, while more research is needed to fully understand the extent of the benefits of Vitamin D for children with autism, it’s clear that this essential nutrient plays a crucial role in overall health.


Q: Can Vitamin D cure autism?

A: No, Vitamin D is not a cure for autism. However, it may offer potential benefits regarding overall health and well-being for children on the spectrum.

Q: Is it safe to give Vitamin D supplements to my child with autism?

A: Vitamin D supplements should only be given under the guidance of a healthcare professional. They can determine the appropriate dosage and monitor your child’s progress.

Q: How can I ensure my child gets enough Vitamin D from sunlight?

A: Ensure your child spends some time outdoors during daylight hours, but be mindful of sun protection to prevent skin damage.

Q: Are there any side effects of Vitamin D supplementation?

A: When taken as recommended, Vitamin D supplements are generally safe. However, excessive intake can lead to side effects, so following your healthcare professional’s advice is crucial.

Q: Are there any other vitamins or supplements that may benefit children with autism?

A: There is ongoing research into various vitamins and supplements that may benefit children with autism. Consult a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations based on your child’s needs.

This article was featured in Issue 59 – Top Strategies, Therapies and Treatments for Autism

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