Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy may increase autism risk in babies

Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, impaired verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted and repetitive behaviour.

Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy may increase autism risk in babies

Sydney: A new study has found that women who are diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy are more likely to have babies with a higher risk of developing autism.

Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, impaired verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted and repetitive behaviour.

Human studies have found that lower levels of maternal Vitamin D during pregnancy are associated with an increased risk of ASD in children. However, the biological mechanisms underpinning this relationship remain unclear.

In the study, rats with Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and lactation produced offspring that displayed altered social behaviours in adulthood.

Differences in social behaviour are a hallmark of numerous human conditions, including ASD.

These findings provide further evidence of the importance of maternal Vitamin D levels during pregnancy for brain development of offspring, the researchers said.

Caitlin Wyrwoll, Assistant Professor at the University of Western Australia said,"Our work reinforces that Vitamin D levels in early life influence brain development and can impact on how the brain functions in later life."

For the findings, the team assessed alterations in markers of brain function and social behaviours of adult rats, born to mothers that were Vitamin D deficient during pregnancy and lactation.

The results showed that the rats with vitamin D-deficient mothers displayed abnormal social behaviours, altered brain chemistry and impaired learning and memory and displayed altered social behaviours in adulthood.

Wyrwoll said,"However, further work is needed to establish whether these associations also apply to humans."

The study was published in the Journal of Endocrinology.

(With IANS inputs)

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