Scientists have added more data to the growing pile of research that links vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy with an increase of autism traits in children.

The study, led by University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute, part of the Universities of Australia, found that women with low vitamin D levels at 20 weeks gestation were more likely to have a child who developed autistic traits by the age of six.

"This study provides further evidence that low vitamin D is associated with neurodevelopmental disorders," QBI professor John McGrath, MD, PhD,  said in a university release published on medicalxpress.com. "Just as taking folate in pregnancy has reduced the incidence of spina bifida, the result of this study suggests that prenatal vitamin D supplements may reduce the incidence of autism." He said the results could have important implications from a public health perspective.

The study examined approximately 4,200 blood samples from pregnant women and their children, who were closely monitored as part of the long-term “Generation R” study in the Netherlands. The results were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.