Maternal Vitamin D, Multivitamin Supplementation May Reduce Risk of Autism in Offspring

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Supplementation during pregnancy also reduced communication warning behaviors in children who developed autism compared to the children of women who did not take supplements.

Vitamin D and multivitamin supplementation during pregnancy may reduce the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to authors who published the results of a recent survey study in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. ASD is characterized by impaired social interactions and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests, or activities. This neurodevelopment disorder has grown in incidence in recent years, and there is a growing body of literature pointing to environmental risk factors (such as nutrient deficiencies) as being possible causes of ASD.

Image Credit: © TarikVision - stock.adobe.com

Image Credit: © TarikVision - stock.adobe.com

Previous research has already linked folic acid deficiency with neural tube defects in pregnant women—and providers have begun to prescribe folic acid and multivitamins more. However, new theories suggest that vitamin D deficiency could be linked with autism.

“Vitamin D plays a fundamental role in neuronal differentiation and maturation, neurotrophy, and neuroprotection, in addition to its classical function of calcium and phosphorus regulation,” wrote study authors. “For the last few years, vitamin D and autism have become a topical issue of increasing attention.”

However, there is no conclusive evidence on the role of maternal vitamin D and multivitamin supplementation on the development of ASD, or the impact of these vitamins on the core symptoms of ASD. In this study, investigators wanted to understand if vitamin D and multivitamin supplementation during pregnancy impacted the risk of ASD in offspring.

The cohort included 1321 children with ASD and 1200 neurotypically developing (TD) children who were originally part of the China Multi-center Preschool Autism Project (CMPAP) study, which ran from May 2018 to December 2019. During the current analysis, investigators compared the relationship between maternal vitamin D supplementation, maternal multivitamin (with or without vitamin D) supplementation, or no vitamin D or multivitamin supplementation on incidence of autism.

ASD symptoms were evaluated using the Autism Behavior Checklist (ABC), Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) and Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS). The team also evaluated neurodevelopmental levels using the Children Neuropsychological and Behavior Scale-Revision 2016 (CNBS-R2016).

The results indicated that supplementation with vitamin D and a multivitamin significantly decreased risk of ASD in offspring (P = 0.024 and P < 0.001). The team also evaluated the relationship between supplementation and the severity or prevalence of certain ASD symptoms in children with ASD.

Specifically, ithe authors noted that the data show that children with ASD had lower scores on the CARS (β = −1.342 [−2.275, −0.409], P = 0.005), lower communication warning behavior [β = −6.631 (−9.899, −3.363), P < 0.001] scores, and higher personal-social quotient [β = 3.347 (0.190, 6.504), P = 0.038], if the mother supplemented with vitamin D or a multivitamin during pregnancy.

“Maternal multivitamin supplementation may potentially moderate the symptoms and personal-social ability in children [with ASD],” study authors wrote.

“Reducing the risk of ASD and autistic symptomology in offspring is a public health policy consideration, which might be achieved through gestational vitamin D and multivitamin administration.”

REFERENCE

Qi X, Yang T, Chen J, et al. Maternal multivitamin supplementation is associated with symptoms in offspring with autism spectrum disorder: A multi-center study in China. Res Aut Spec Disr.2024. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2023.102309

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