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Scientists have discovered that children with autism who take vitamin D supplements can experience a reduction in the severity of some of the traits associated with the disease, including social isolation and hyperactivity.
As a result, the vitamin - which people can receive naturally from exposure to sunlight, or by consuming foods such as eggs, cheese, orange juice and fatty fish - may also have the potential to assist in improving the speech and communication issues that many young people who fall onto the autistic spectrum have.
The research, carried out in Egypt and published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, involved 109 participants - all of whom were aged under 18 and had been diagnosed as autistic - receiving four months of vitamin D supplements or a placebo.
Following this, the scientists working on the study identified a potential link between autism and vitamin D deficiency, finding that children's symptoms tended to reduce in severity after their bodies had been exposed to enhanced levels of the vital vitamin.
Dr Khaled Saad, lead author of the study, explained: "Autism symptoms, such as hyperactivity, social withdrawal, and others, improved significantly following vitamin D3 supplementation but not after receiving placebo."
With this in mind, speech therapists helping to treat young people with autism may wish to suggest to their patients and their parents that the child increases their intake of vitamin D to see how this impacts their symptoms.
Previous research carried out at the University of Glasgow led to the discovery that children born in the winter months are more likely to be diagnosed as autistic, which the study authors believed could be due to their lack of exposure to vitamin D from natural sunlight at that time of year.
Meanwhile, past studies have shown the other health benefits that increasing vitamin D intake can have, with these ranging from a lower risk of certain types of cancer to strengthening the teeth and muscles.
Written by Martin Lambert
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