Nutrition for the Brain: Vitamin D

Vitamin D and SunshineVitamin D is a common nutritional deficiency and is critical to healthy brain function and immunity as outlined in Dr. Robert Melillo’s book “The Disconnected Kids The Nutrition Plan.” This series, “Nutrition for the Brain,” will explore the nutrients that are most important to brain development and childhood health.


We are learning more and more every day about the association between the “sunshine vitamin” and brain health. There are receptors for vitamin D throughout the central nervous system and in the hippocampus, which is involved in memory. We also know that it controls enzyme activation in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth. Vitamin D deficiency is believed to be associated with a higher risk of a variety of diseases including those involved in impaired brain function.


In my book Autism: The Scientific Truth About Preventing, Diagnosing and Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders–and What Parents Can Do Now, I point to the growing body of research showing that a vitamin D deficiency in parents increases the risk of having a child with autism. According to biological scientist Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D. who has researched the role Vitamin D plays in not only autism but also other developmental disorders in childhood, “There’s that correlation between autism incidence rising and vitamin D deficiency rising, largely as a consequence of people wearing sunscreens, and staying indoors more … UVB radiation is very important to make vitamin D in the skin.”  She further hypothesizes that this is due to vitamin D’s influence on serotonin production and the role of serotonin in early childhood development, as well as in maternal autoimmunity. More about Patrick’s studies can be found here

In one study, vitamin D levels in teens and young adults with autism spectrum disorders were “significantly lower” than those without the condition. Research suggests that vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory action may make supplementation an effective means of fighting conditions on the spectrum.


While the ideal source of vitamin D is sunshine (which is why it’s so important to get kids to go outside and play the old fashioned way!), it can also be found in fortified foods – milk being the major source. Since your child may have a casein sensitivity, however, you need to depend on other foods to help protect against a deficiency. These are some nondairy sources of vitamin D:

  • Flounder
  • Fortified Almond Milk
  • Halibut
  • Liver
  • Salmon
  • Tuna

More information on vitamin D can be found on page 105 of my book “The Disconnected Kids Nutrition Plan.”


Vitamin D Infographic | Dr. Robert Melillo


Disconnected Kids Nutrition Plan

Dr. Robert Melillo’s Brain Balance program has helped thousands of families across the country, offering a drug-free, scientifically based method for addressing a wide range of conditions, including autism spectrum disorders and ADHD. In this new book, he presents the nutritional side of The Brain Balance Program, featuring guidelines, tips, and kid-friendly recipes based on the latest scientific research on how food affects the brain.

Disclaimer: The information presented on this web site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment of specific medical conditions. Discuss this information with your healthcare provider to determine what is right for you and your family.

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