Although this is a science-based blog, here is your history lesson for the day:
In the 1960's it was thought that supravalvular aortic stenosis (the characteristic heart defect of WS) was caused by the mother ingesting too much vitamin D during pregnancy. At the time, researchers didn't know about Williams syndrome and its genetic component. A study performed in the late 1950's drew a connection between SVAS and hypercalcemia (or high calcium in the blood). WS is the only identified disorder that has unexplained hypercalcemia before the age of 1. So, the researchers put two and two together and concluded that high levels of vitamin D lead to heart defects and all the symptoms of what we today know as Williams syndrome- SVAS, low IQ, and hypercalcemia. The study started a Vitamin D scare that changed the Food and Nutrition Board recommended values for Vitamin D to lower levels in Britain and the US. Until the 1980's when genetics identified that SVAS is due to a genetic defect did the vitamin D theory change.
Recently, a new vitamin D theory has surfaced and again, it's basic idea is based on what else, Williams syndrome:
- A group of researchers began in 2007, studying a link between vitamin D deficiencies with the increase of autistic children. The researchers studying this connection are using Williams syndrome as the basis of their hypothesis. Their reasoning is that the highly sociable personalities of WS are opposite those of autistic children. They think that social behavior is directly related to vitamin D levels- WS, having high levels of calcium and vitamin D in the first year of life leads to high social nature versus autism that could potentially have low levels of vitamin D and exhibiting anti-social behaviors. Their hypothesis is that vitamin D levels in the body determine the social nature of each disorder.
They don't comment on the fact that some kids with WS are also autistic, making me skeptical, but still an interesting study! It just goes to show you, what you "know" today may not be considered right in the future. And that my friends, is what makes science so interesting to me. There is always more to learn.