Yuval Levental: Vitamin D and Autism

Introduction by Yuval Levental: I am a person on the autism spectrum who critically analyzes autism advocacy. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Michigan State University and a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from ESIEE Paris. Other hobbies of mine include recreationally solving complex math puzzles, traveling, eating new foods, and learning about different cultures.

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Until recently, I assumed that the main cause of my autism was excessive muscle tension around my forehead and nose, caused by my protruding forehead (https://corticalchauvinism.com/2017/11/13/yuval-levental-cranial-deformities-sinus-difficulties-and-autism/). However, results from a blood test I underwent a few weeks ago have changed my viewpoint on the matter.

My Vitamin D level is about a third of the minimum level that is needed, and about a fifth of the recommended level. It should also be known that I was eating right, getting enough exercise, and was already taking over-the-counter Vitamin D supplements before I got my blood tested. According to the Harvard Medical School health blog, only 6% of Americans have vitamin D levels less than 12.5 ng/mL (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-d-whats-right-level-2016121910893). Additionally, my father and brother both have very similar vitamin D levels, even though we all live very different lifestyles. Therefore, it is very likely that the main cause of this deficiency is genetic.

Looking up information on Vitamin D and autism, I learned that Vitamin D provides energy to a person’s mitochondria, which are the batteries of the body’s cells (https://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/articles/archive/2013/04/vitamindproventoboostenergyfromwithinthecells.html). Additionally, some studies have shown that Vitamin D supplementation has improved the core symptoms of autism (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28217829). Therefore, it is likely that for some autistic individuals, low Vitamin D can explain potential difficulties with employment.

In the past, I received Botox injections to treat the excessive muscle tension that I faced. This did help me function better, but it seems that the Vitamin D supplements have had an even greater impact on my well-being, causing me to feel far more alert in general. Therefore, I have decided to stop taking Botox for now, as I don’t find it to be as beneficial anymore. Currently, I am taking one 50,000 IU pill of Vitamin D per week, which is equivalent to 1.25 mg. This treatment is considered to be lifelong.

However, I am now wondering how more awareness can be raised about this potential cause of autism. Claiming that autism is a “difference, not a disability” certainly would not be beneficial to a person with this deficiency. Additionally, some say that nothing can be done about a person’s autism, but this finding definitely proves otherwise.

 

9 responses to “Yuval Levental: Vitamin D and Autism

    • Someone explained why nutrient deficiencies would be a contributing factor of autism back in 1982…. page 209 of Chapter 7 at http://www.pseudoexpertise.com.
      Meanwhile a number of positive studies of vit B6 and magnesium were published some decades back, though my guess is they mainly helped with anxiety aspects of autism. Deficiencies of folate and oxygen have also been proposed.

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  1. I have found dosing of vitamin d ineffective at raising levels until I added vitamin k mk7 to it. My dosing is now an order of magnitude lower with much better results.

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  2. I was once put on 50,000 IU of Vitamin D2 once per week. It was clearly psychoactive for me. However, when I switched to a new primary care physician, I was taken off it, due to concerns about toxicity. I am currently on 4000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily, due to other medical issues.

    Speaking as someone who’s on the autism spectrum but isn’t a medical professional, my understanding is that you are raising complicated issues about what autism is and what it means to improve the symptoms of it. For example, SSRI medication improves my ability to connect with people and socialize. Does this mean that medication is treating my autism, and that everyone on the spectrum should try different SSRI medications until their sociability improves? Not necessarily. Like many people on the spectrum, I have comorbid psychiatric disorders: OCD, depression, a tic disorder, and trauma symptoms, and a couple of ADHD experts have suggested that I also qualify for a separate diagnosis of ADHD. So what is the SSRI actually treating that affects my sociability? In your case, Yuval, vitamin D could be boosting your mood, which could be expected to have the effects that you describe. But that would be different than treating your autism directly. It’s still a nice result, but it doesn’t necessarily change the picture of how treatable autism is. Besides the issue of whether the vitamin D is treating something comorbid like depression, there’s the fact that you and I are just two data points on the autism spectrum, and that our general functioning is relatively high compared to many other people on the spectrum. Saying that something helps symptoms that are relatively mild to begin with, if I’m understanding your situation correctly, is not the same as saying that it helps symptoms that are having a profound effect on other people.

    I hope that you will get a second opinion on the safety of your current vitamin D dose. Unfortunately, not everything that might help us is safe.

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  3. I hope you feel better physically and mentally, and that this helps you find more energy. You can also get injections of Vitamin D, if you find that more sunlight, and pill supplements, do not alleviate your blood levels of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is also important to many autoimmune disorders, low levels being associated with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes. Absorption of Vitamin D can also be affected by gut disorders like Crohns Disease and Celiac disease. I wonder, could there be a link between gut problems in ASDs and Vitamin D?…

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    • Gut problems are not unique to ASD, people with Parkinsons have signs of crohns disease before the onset, and 1/3rd of people with Schizophrenia have IBS (I suppose saying “gut problems” is a way of softening a serious issue, a thing “decided” to do with ASD to downplay a medical view, hence IBS for Schizophrenia or Crohn’s for Parkinsons but “gut problems” for ASD.) It is well known the gut’s bacteria, some of them, literally eat neurotransmitters and this may be the root or a provoking factor in gut problems. I don’t have any though.

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  4. Barry, good points about alleviating symptoms. I’ve heard one of my colleagues say (an MD/Ph.D in psychiatry), that sometimes in the end, what matters less is the exact diagnosis, and finding a treatment that helps with symptoms. I don’t think Yuval was saying it was a cure, but if there is something lacking, that you can check with an easy blood test, and if you can supplement for it and feel somewhat better, it might be worth investigating. You make an excellent point though, about making sure you don’t overcompensate and get toxic levels of Vitamin D. Hopefully, Yuval’s doctors will be on top of retesting after a few months of treatment.

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  5. My understanding is that excess vit d rarely causes major harm. It once caused me to develop a white spot on my cornea, which went in the months after reducing dose (to zilch temporarily). You can get an easy d test by post from City Hospital in UK.

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  6. I take 10,000 to 14,000 daily and have been the past year. I don’t notice any effects but continue to keep taking them. One thing is less shakiness or head tremors from my SSRIs, but I don’t know if that is placebo.

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