Nutritional and metabolic status of children with autism

A new study published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism found that children with autism have decreased energy production because of impaired mitochondrial function. Children with autism were also found, in this study comparing 55 with autistic spectrum disorders to 44 neurotypical children of similar age, to have significantly lower nutritional status. Levels of biotins and other vitamins were lower, as were levels of glutathione, a major anti-oxidant and defense against toxic metals and chemicals, suggesting that vitamin and mineral supplementation would be helpful. Low levels of the third most abundant mineral in the body, sulfate, were detected, which is needed for liver detoxification, and which children with autism do not appear to be able to recycle in their kidneys which results in the loss of sulfates through urine. MSM supplements or Epsom salt baths can help with low levels of sulfates.

Low levels of tryptophan, an essential amino acid, suggest children with autism have lower levels of serotonin (an important neurotransmitter) and melatonin (the hormone which induces sleep). Tryptophan is converted into serotonin and then melatonin, so tryptophan supplementation would be helpful here. Low levels of lithium confirms an earlier study by Adams et al, which found lower levels of lithium in young children with autism and their mothers. Low levels of lithium are also implicated in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and aggressive behaviour, suggesting lithium supplementation may help.

The lead author, Professor James Adams of Arizona State University says that these results show that although there are many nutritional and metabolic abnormalities in children with autism, many of them may be remedied by careful supplementation. The supplement used in the study has now been commercialised and is available from

Source: Nutrition and Metabolism

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First Published in June 2011

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