There has been a big focus on autism in recent times. And a new study by a team at the University of Queensland Brain Institute, has found that there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and the disorder.
Since the study was published, and several news sites picked up the story, there has been a call to introduce vitamin D supplements during pregnancy. It's hoped that this would have a similar positive effect to folate, which has helped reduce the rate of spina bifida in newborns.
Specifically, the study - a collaborative effort with the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands, discovered that women who have low vitamin D levels when 20 weeks pregnant had a higher chance of having a child with autistic characteristics.
"This study provides further evidence that low vitamin D is associated with neurodevelopmental disorders," lead author Professor McGrath said.
So why supplements?
While Australia and many other countries receive a drenching of sunlight - a natural source of vitamin D, McGrath cautions against this as a possible treatment as it poses a high risk of skin cancer.
"Instead, it's feasible that a safe, inexpensive, and publicly accessible vitamin D supplement in at-risk groups may reduce the prevalence of this risk factor," he said.
How was the discovery made?
The research involved around 4,200 blood samples from pregnant women and their kids, in the Netherlands. It concluded what many have suspected that vitamin D does have an impact on brain development.
More research needs to be done before a public recommendation is made about vitamin D supplements during pregnancy. But the study has helped highlight that vitamin D does play a role in the development of a healthy baby.
A vitamin D deficiency has previously been shown to increase the risk of eczema, asthma, and other allergic ailments.
To learn if you have vitamin D deficiency, consult a nutritionist near your area.