Want to avoid autism? Try going out in the sun.
A new study by Rhonda Patrick, PhD and Bruce Ames, PhD of the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute has shown a causal link between low vitamin D levels and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism, a condition characterized by abnormal social behavior, has long puzzled researchers.
Individuals with autism exhibit a wide range of affected behaviors, and may show no cognitive deficits as a result of their diagnosis; in fact, many Autistic individuals have incredibly high levels of intelligence. So, what caused these otherwise “normal” children to have trouble interacting with peers and adapting to new environments? Why are males more likely to develop the condition than females? Why are serotonin levels in their brain so low when the blood level is so high?
It seems so simple; get more vitamin D? Well, it is estimated that 70% of the world population is dangerously close or below the recommended level of vitamin D. The answer, get more sun. Humans require 5-15 minutes of unprotected daily sun exposure (depending on your skin type and proximity to the equator, or course). Here in Florida, it is easier for us at Interactive Metronome® headquarters to get out in the sun. Most days, we can’t avoid it. For our northern friends, older individuals and anyone overweight, supplementing your vitamin D intake will greatly reduce your risk. I am going to sound like a Total cereal commercial for a minute, but do you know how many 8 oz. glasses of milk you have to drink to equal the amount of vitamin D produced during 15 minutes in the sun? 100! Now, imagine that rising in front of you in some sort of imposing pyramid. Pretty serious, right? We thought so.
I would like to point out we are not advocating long-term exposure to the sun. You might consider applying sunscreen or covering up after the 5-15 period if plan to stay outside. Moreover, five minutes of exposure per day will have dramatic health benefits with minimal exposure, as compared with staying outside for an hour once a week (which does carry a high risk of sun damage). As a bonus, sunlight has a positive effect on mood and alertness.
The next time you want to do something good for yourself start by opening the door and stepping outside. Check back soon for the second part of our blog series You Are What You Eat; it is all about vitamins and their effect on your brain and body.