It seems like we learn more about the importance of vitamin D every day. Today's lesson? Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is associated with traits related to autism, according to a November 2016 study published in Molecular Psychiatry.
Researchers analyzed the levels of vitamin D in more than 4,200 blood samples from both pregnant women and their children, who were studied as part of Generation R (aka a large research project on youth in the Netherlands). Blood samples were taken twice: once when the mother was 21 weeks pregnant, and once at birth. Then, when the children reached age 6, parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire called the Social Responsiveness Scale in order to gauge whether their children were exhibiting "autism-related traits."
After comparing the mothers' vitamin D levels with the self-reported signs of autism in their children, the study authors noticed an interesting connection: Mothers who had low levels of vitamin D in their blood (a whopping 36 percent of participants, by the time they gave birth) were more likely to have children who exhibited autism-related traits by age 6 than mothers who had regular levels of vitamin D in their blood.
This isn't totally surprising: Previous research has found that vitamin D plays an important role in brain development, and deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to other conditions in children, such as schizophrenia and asthma, in the past. That said, it's important to keep in mind that this study only found a link between D deficiency and autism (rather than proving one caused the other), and the "autism-related traits" were self-reported by the parents (rather than the child receiving an official diagnosis from a physician).
But it's still important to get enough vitamin D, which is actually pretty simple and can be really tasty. Try incorporating more vitamin D into your diet, either by way of vitamin D-rich recipes like these or a supplement. (Just remember that soaking up the sun all. day. long. is not a healthy way to get your fill of the stuff.)
[h/t The Guardian]