Low sun, high risk -- especially for kids

It's time to shed a little light on the rise in autism rates -- specifically sunlight, because new research makes a direct connection between sun exposure and autism risk.

To put it simply, the more sun kids get, the lower their risk and the lower the autism rates -- and kids who live in the states with the most summer and autumn sun have half the autism risk of kids in states with less sun.

What a difference a little daylight makes.

But of course, it's not sun alone that's behind the new autism rates in the journal Dermato-Endocrinology. It's what that sunlight does, helping your body to make critical vitamin D.

The study also looked more directly at D levels, finding that African American children in these areas -- kids who have a harder time making D from sunlight because of their darker skin pigmentation -- have 40 percent lower levels of the sunshine vitamin.

And, not coincidentally, they have 40 percent higher autism rates.

But it's not just kids -- black or white -- who are deficient in this critical nutrient. Adults are, too -- and that includes the expectant mothers who need D for two, but don't even have enough for one.

As a result, the researchers behind the new study want to see recommended D levels for pregnant women increased from 20 ng/mL to between 30 and 40 ng/mL.

Personally, I think many people -- pregnant and non-pregnant women, men, and children alike -- can benefit from much higher levels than that. But since too much sun can also increase the risk of skin cancer, the best way to get it is through a supplement of between 2,000 IU and 5,000 IU per day.

Of course, autism is a complicated condition and vitamin D levels represent only a small part of the picture. Autism can also be caused or worsened by environmental toxins such as exposure to heavy metals in food, water, and medicine as well as other nutritional issues.

Medications prescribed to the mother during pregnancy may also contribute to that that risk.

Work with a holistic physician on the best approach for you and your child or grandchild, which will often mean making a number of changes to both nutrition and lifestyle. These changes won't always be easy, but they can make a huge difference in the condition and how -- or whether -- it progresses.