Yasmin H. Neggers, ISRN Nutrition, Volume 2014, Article ID 514026.
The frequency of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) diagnoses has been increasing for decades, but researchers cannot agree on whether the trend is a result of increased awareness, improved detection, expanding definition, or an actual increase in incidence or a combination of these factors. Though both genetic and multiple environmental risk factors have been studied extensively, many potentially modifiable risk factors including nutritional and immune function related risk factors such as vitamin D, folic acid, and metabolic syndrome have not received sufficient attention. Several recent studies have put forward hypotheses to explain the mechanism of association between both folic acid and vitamin D and autism. A continuous rise in the prevalence of autism in the USA has coincided with a significant enhancement of maternal folate status with FDA mandated folic acid fortification of certain foods starting in 1998. There is also a growing body of research that suggests that vitamin D status either in utero or early in life may be a risk for autism. In this communication, controversies regarding increase in estimate of prevalence, implications of changes in definition, and possible association between some modifiable nutritional risk factors such as folic acid and vitamin D and ASD will be discussed.