When I was in medical school more than 32 years ago, the incidence of autism was 1 in 10,000. Today, the incidence has climbed to less than 1 in 50, according to CDC statistics.1
Projections from reputable experts suggest that within 10 to 20 years, HALF of all children will have some form of autistic disorder.
While there's a strong component of increased awareness, which means more children are being diagnosed, this still cannot account for the exponential increase in autism incidence.
How can a culture continue to thrive if every other child has a dysfunctional brain? It can't. It's a prescription for social breakdown. Clearly something needs to be done to curb this avalanching trend.
But just what can a parent do to reduce the risk to their child?
Biological scientist Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D. has published two papers2,3 that expand on some very exciting, simple, but powerful lifestyle interventions that could have profound influence not only on autism but a variety of other developmental disorders in childhood.
We've heard about the influence of vitamin D on autism before, but only from a superficial point of view. In her studies, Patrick has dug deep, arriving at a really brilliant hypothesis.
Vitamin D Is an Important Gene Regulator
To understand why vitamin D plays such an important role in brain function (and dysfunction), it's important to understand what vitamin D actually is. Despite being named a "vitamin," vitamin D actually gets converted into a steroid hormone (other steroid hormones include estrogen and testosterone).
As a steroid hormone, it regulates over 1,000 different physiological processes, and controls around 5 percent of the human genome. Dr. Michael Holick, who's a leader in vitamin D research, thinks it may even control twice that amount of genes.
When you have enough vitamin D in your body, it binds to vitamin D receptors located throughout your body, thereby acting like a key that opens the proverbial door.
The vitamin D receptor complex can go deep inside the DNA, where it recognizes the tell-tale sequence of code that instructs the vitamin D receptor complex to either turn the gene on (making it active), or off (making it inactive).
Emerging evidence suggests those little tell-tale sequences are present in as much as 10 percent of all genes, but according to Patrick, it hasn't been empirically proven that vitamin D has the ability to activate or deactivate all of those genes.
She agrees it's quite likely that this might be the case though, which gives vitamin D a truly profound influence.