Advances in Autism Research
compiled by Teresa Binstock for ARI
Autism and Supplements
1a. Does pharmaceutical advertising affect journal publication
about dietary supplements?
Kathi J Kemper and Kaylene L Hood
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2008, 8:11
Background: Advertising affects consumer and prescriber behaviors. The relationship between pharmaceutical advertising and journals' publication of articles regarding dietary supplements (DS) is unknown.
Methods: We reviewed one year of the issues of 11 major medical journals for advertising and content about DS. Advertising was categorized as pharmaceutical versus other. Articles about DS were included if they discussed vitamins, minerals, herbs or similar products. Articles were classified as major (e.g., clinical trials, cohort studies, editorials and reviews) or other (e.g., case reports, letters, news, and others). Articles' conclusions regarding safety and effectiveness were coded as negative (unsafe or ineffective) or other (safe, effective, unstated, unclear or mixed).
Results: Journals' total pages per issue ranged from 56 to 217 while advertising pages ranged from 4 to 88; pharmaceutical advertisements (pharmads) accounted for 1.5% to 76% of ad pages. Journals with the most pharmads published significantly fewer major articles about DS per issue than journals with the fewest pharmads (P < 0.01). Journals with the most pharmads published no clinical trials or cohort studies about DS. The percentage of major articles concluding that DS were unsafe was 4% in journals with fewest and 67% among those with the most pharmads (P = 0.02). The percentage of articles concluding that DS were ineffective was 50% higher among journals with more than among those with fewer pharmads (P = 0.4).
Conclusion: These data are consistent with the hypothesis that increased pharmaceutical advertising is associated with publishing fewer articles about DS and publishing more articles with conclusions that DS are unsafe. Additional research is needed to test alternative hypotheses for these findings in a larger sample of more diverse journals.
1b. Nutritional therapies for mental disorders
Lakhan SE, Vieira KF.
Nutr J. 2008 Jan 21;7:2.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4 out of the 10 leading causes of disability in the US and other developed countries are mental disorders. Major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are among the most common mental disorders that currently plague numerous countries and have varying incidence rates from 26 percent in America to 4 percent in China. Though some of this difference may be attributable to the manner in which individual healthcare providers diagnose mental disorders, this noticeable distribution can be also explained by studies which show that a lack of certain dietary nutrients contribute to the development of mental disorders. Notably, essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids are often deficient in the general population in America and other developed countries; and are exceptionally deficient in patients suffering from mental disorders. Studies have shown that daily supplements of vital nutrients often effectively reduce patients' symptoms. Supplements that contain amino acids also reduce symptoms, because they are converted to neurotransmitters that alleviate depression and other mental disorders. Based on emerging scientific evidence, this form of nutritional supplement treatment may be appropriate for controlling major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), addiction, and autism. The aim of this manuscript is to emphasize which dietary supplements can aid the treatment of the four most common mental disorders currently affecting America and other developed countries: major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).Most antidepressants and other prescription drugs cause severe side effects, which usually discourage patients from taking their medications. Such noncompliant patients who have mental disorders are at a higher risk for committing suicide or being institutionalized. One way for psychiatrists to overcome this noncompliance is to educate themselves about alternative or complementary nutritional treatments. Although in the cases of certain nutrients, further research needs to be done to determine the best recommended doses of most nutritional supplements, psychiatrists can recommend doses of dietary supplements based on previous and current efficacious studies and then adjust the doses based on the results obtained.
2. Omega-3 DHA and EPA for cognition, behavior, and mood: clinical findings and structural-functional synergies with cell membrane phospholipids
Altern Med Rev. 2007 Sep;12(3):207-27.
The omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are orthomolecular, conditionally essential nutrients that enhance quality of life and lower the risk of premature death. They function exclusively via cell membranes, in which they are anchored by phospholipid molecules. DHA is proven essential to pre- and postnatal brain development, whereas EPA seems more influential on behavior and mood. Both DHA and EPA generate neuroprotective metabolites. In double-blind, randomized, controlled trials, DHA and EPA combinations have been shown to benefit attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, and aggression. For the affective disorders, meta-analyses confirm benefits in major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder, with promising results in schizophrenia and initial benefit for borderline personality disorder. Accelerated cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) correlate with lowered tissue levels of DHA/EPA, and supplementation has improved cognitive function. Huntington disease has responded to EPA. Omega-3 phospholipid supplements that combine DHA/EPA and phospholipids into the same molecule have shown marked promise in early clinical trials. Phosphatidylserine with DHA/EPA attached (Omega-3 PS) has been shown to alleviate AD/HD symptoms. Krill omega-3 phospholipids, containing mostly phosphatidylcholine (PC) with DHA/EPA attached, markedly outperformed conventional fish oil DHA/EPA triglycerides in double-blind trials for premenstrual syndrome/dysmenorrhea and for normalizing blood lipid profiles. Krill omega-3 phospholipids demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity, lowering C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in a double-blind trial. Utilizing DHA and EPA together with phospholipids and membrane antioxidants to achieve a triple cell membrane synergy may further diversify their currently wide range of clinical applications.
3. Reduced violent behavior following biochemical therapy
Walsh WJ, Glab LB, Haakenson ML.
Physiol Behav. 2004 Oct 15;82(5):835-9.
Reduced violent behavior following biochemical therapy. We conducted an outcome study to measure the effectiveness of biochemical therapy for 207 consecutive patients presenting with a diagnosed behavior disorder. The treatment protocols were based on clinical evaluation and our past experience in the treatment of 8000 patients with behavior disorders at the Pfeiffer Treatment Center (PTC) over a 10-year period. Each test subject was screened for chemical imbalances previously found in high incidence in this population, including metal-metabolism disorders, methylation abnormalities, disordered pyrrole chemistry, heavy-metal overload, glucose dyscontrol, and malabsorption. The clinical procedure included a medical history, assay of 90 biochemical factors, and a physical examination. Standardized treatment protocols were applied for each imbalance that was identified. The frequencies of physical assaults and destructive episodes were determined using a standardized behavior scale before and after treatment, with follow-up ranging from 4 to 8 months. RESULTS: Seventy-six percent of the test subjects achieved compliance during the treatment period. The remaining 24% were reported to have discontinued the therapy. A reduced frequency of assaults was reported by 92% of the compliant assaultive patients, with 58% achieving elimination of the behavior. A total of 88% of compliant destructive patients exhibited a reduced frequency of destructive incidents and 53% achieved elimination of the behavior. Statistical significance was found for reduced frequency of assaults (t=7.74, p<0.001) and destructive incidents (t= 8.77, p<0.001). The results of this outcome study strongly suggest that individualized biochemical therapy may be efficacious in achieving behavioral improvements in this patient population.
4. Effect of a 12-mo micronutrient intervention on learning and memory in well-nourished and marginally nourished school-aged children: 2 parallel, randomized, placebo-controlled studies in Australia and Indonesia
Osendarp SJ et al.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Oct;86(4):1082-93.
BACKGROUND: Little is known about the combined effect of micronutrients and essential fatty acids on cognitive function in school-aged children. OBJECTIVE: We assessed the effect of micronutrients, long-chain n-3 fatty acids, or both on indicators of cognitive performance in well-nourished and marginally nourished school-aged children. DESIGN: Two 2-by-2 factorial randomized controlled double-blind trials were performed home-based in Adelaide, South Australia, and at 6 primary schools in Jakarta, Indonesia. A total of 396 children (aged 6-10 y) in Australia and 384 children in Indonesia were randomly allocated to receive a drink with a micronutrient mix (iron, zinc, folate, and vitamins A, B-6, B-12, and C), with docosahexanoic acid (DHA, 88 mg/d) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 22 mg/d), or with both or placebo 6 d/wk for 12 mo. Biochemical indicators were determined at baseline and 12 mo. Cognitive performance was measured at baseline, 6 mo, and 12 mo. RESULTS: The micronutrient treatment significantly improved plasma micronutrient concentrations in Australian and Indonesian children. DHA+EPA treatment increased plasma DHA and total plasma n-3 fatty acids in both countries. The micronutrient treatment resulted in significant increases in scores on tests representing verbal learning and memory in Australia (estimated effect size: 0.23; 95% CI: 0.01, 0.46). A similar effect was observed among Indonesian girls (estimated effect size: 0.32; 95% CI: -0.01, 0.64). No effects were found on tests measuring general intelligence or attention. No effects of DHA+EPA on the factors of cognitive tests were observed. CONCLUSION: In well-nourished school-aged children, fortification with multiple micronutrients can result in improvements in verbal learning and memory.
5. Children with autism: effect of iron supplementation on sleep and ferritin
Dosman CF et al.
Pediatr Neurol. 2007 Mar;36(3):152-8.
To determine if there is a relationship between low serum ferritin and sleep disturbance in children with autism spectrum disorder, an 8-week open-label treatment trial with oral iron supplementation was conducted as a pilot study. At baseline and posttreatment visits, parents completed a Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children and a Food Record. Blood samples were obtained. Thirty-three children completed the study. Seventy-seven percent had restless sleep at baseline, which improved significantly with iron therapy, suggesting a relationship between sleep disturbance and iron deficiency in children with autism spectrum disorder. Sixty-nine percent of preschoolers and 35% of school-aged children had insufficient dietary iron intake. Mean ferritin increased significantly (16 microg/L to 29 microg/L), as did mean corpuscular volume and hemoglobin, suggesting that low ferritin in this patient group resulted from insufficient iron intake. Similar prevalence of low ferritin at school age as preschool age indicates that children with autism spectrum disorder require ongoing screening for iron deficiency.
6. Effect of polyphenolic extract, Pycnogenol, on the level of 8-oxoguanine in children suffering from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
Chovanová Z et al.
Free Radic Res. 2006 Sep;40(9):1003-10.
The purpose of this randomized, double-blind and placebo controlled study was to test the effect of polyphenolic extract of pine bark Pycnogenol (Pyc) on the level of oxidized purines represented by 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine (8-oxoG) and on the total antioxidant status (TAS) in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).We have found significantly increased damage to DNA in ADHD children when compared to controls. 8-oxoG was significantly lower after 1 month of Pyc administration in comparison to the beginning state and to placebo group. TAS in ADHD children was lower in comparison to controls. After Pyc administration, TAS was elevated but statistically significant increase was recorded after 1 month of termination of Pyc application. Improvement of DNA damage and TAS after Pyc administration is associated with the improvement of attention in ADHD children.In conclusion, Pycnogenol(R) administration reduces oxidative damage to DNA, normalizes TAS and improves attention of ADHD children. Explanation of mutual relation between oxidative damage to DNA, TAS and symptoms of ADHD and mechanism of Pyc's action needs further investigations.
7. The effect of polyphenolic extract from pine bark, Pycnogenol on the level of glutathione in children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Dvoráková M et al.
Redox Rep. 2006;11(4):163-72.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) belongs to the neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impulsivity, distractibility and hyperactivity. In the pathogenesis of ADHD genetic and non-genetic factors play an important role. It is assumed that one of non-genetic factors should be oxidative stress. Pycnogenol, an extract from the pine bark, consists of bioflavonoids, catechins, procyanidins and phenolic acids. Pycnogenol acts as powerful antioxidant, chelating agent; it stimulates the activities of some enzymes, like SOD, eNOS, and exhibits other biological activities. AIM: The aim of this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was to investigate the influence of administered Pycnogenol or placebo on the level of reduced (GSH) and oxidized (GSSG) glutathione in children suffering from ADHD and on total antioxidant status (TAS). This is the first investigation of the redox glutathione state in relation to ADHD. RESULTS: One month of Pycnogenol administration (1 mg/kg body weight/day) caused a significant decrease in GSSG and a highly significant increase in GSH levels as well as improvement of GSH/GSSG ratio in comparison to a group of patients taking a placebo. TAS in children with ADHD was decreased in comparison with reference values. Pycnogenol administration normalizes TAS of ADHD children.
8. Treatment of ADHD with French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol
Trebatická J et al.
Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006 Sep;15(6):329-35. Epub 2006 May 13.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common psychiatric disorder in children. Pycnogenol, an extract from the bark of the French maritime pine, consisting of phenolic acids, catechin, taxifolin and procyanidins, has shown improvement of ADHD in case reports and in an open study. Aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of Pycnogenol on ADHD symptoms. Sixty-one children were supplemented with 1 mg/kg/day Pycnogenol or placebo over a period of 4 weeks in a randomised, placebo-controlled, doubleblind study. Patients were examined at start of trial, 1 month after treatment and 1 month after end of treatment period by standard questionnaires: CAP (Child Attention Problems) teacher rating scale, Conner's Teacher Rating Scale (CTRS), the Conner's Parent Rating Scale (CPRS) and a modified Wechsler Intelligence Scale for children. Results show that 1-month Pycnogenol administration caused a significant reduction of hyperactivity, improves attention and visual-motoric coordination and concentration of children with ADHD. In the placebo group no positive effects were found. One month after termination of Pycnogenol administration a relapse of symptoms was noted. Our results point to an option to use Pycnogenol as a natural supplement to relieve ADHD symptoms of children.
9. Complementary and alternative medical therapies for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism
Weber W, Newmark S.
Pediatr Clin North Am. 2007 Dec;54(6):983-1006; xii.
Complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies are commonly used by parents for their children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorders. The use of these therapies is well documented, yet the evidence of the safety and efficacy of these treatments in children is limited. This article describes the current evidence-based CAM therapies for ADHD and autism, focusing on nutritional interventions; natural health products, including essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and other health supplements; biofeedback; and reducing environmental toxins. The CAM evidence in ADHD is addressed, as is the CAM literature in autism.
10. Registered dietitians' insights in treating autistic children
J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 May;107(5):727-30.
11. Patterns of complementary and alternative medical therapy use in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders
Wong HH, Smith RG.
J Autism Dev Disord. 2006 Oct;36(7):901-9.
Previous studies suggest that complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapy use in children with chronic illnesses is higher than in children in the general population. In this study, we investigated patterns of CAM therapy use in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD, n = 50) as compared to a control population of children with no ASD (n = 50). Over half of the parents in the ASD group reported using, or had used at least one CAM therapy for their child (52%) as compared to 28% of the control group (P = 0.024). Seventy percent of therapies used in the ASD group were biologically based therapies comprised of special diets or supplements, and parents felt that 75% of the therapies used were beneficial.
12. Improvement of neurobehavioral disorders in children supplemented with magnesium-vitamin B6. II. Pervasive developmental disorder-autism
Mousain-Bosc M et al.
Magnes Res. 2006 Mar;19(1):53-62.
Previous studies reported positive results with the use of Mg-vitamin B6 in autism. Despite these reports, this intervention remains controversial. In order to study relationships between changes in clinical symtoms and biological parameters, 33 children (mean age: 4 [1-10] years old) with clinical symptoms of pervasive developmental disorder or autism (PDD, as defined in DSM-IV) were followed for at least 6 months; another group of 36 children (same age) devoided of any known pathology was used as control. All PDD children received a magnesium-vit B6 (Mg-B6) regimen (6 mg/kg/d Mg and 0.6 mg/kg/d vit B6). Intraerythrocyte Mg2+ (Erc-Mg), serum Mg2+ (s-Mg) and blood ionized Ca2+ (i-Ca) were measured before and after treatment. Clinical symptoms of PDD were scored (0 to 4). In contrast to s-Mg or i-Ca, PDD children exhibited significantly lower Erc-Mg values than controls (2.17 +/- 0.4 versus 2.73 +/- 0.23 mmol/L; 16/33). The Mg-B6 regimen led to an increase in Erc-Mg values (2.42 +/- 0.41 (after) versus 2.17 +/- 0.4 mmol/l (before), 11/17) and this supplementation improved PDD symptoms in 23/33 children (p < 0.0001) with no adverse effects: social interactions (23/33), communication (24/33), stereotyped restricted behavior (18/33), and abnormal/delayed functioning (17/33); 15/33 children were improved in the first three groups of symptoms. When the Mg-B6 treatment was stopped, PDD symtoms reappeared in few weeks. A statistically significant relationship was found in Erc-Mg values from children before treatment and their mothers. In conclusion, this study suggests that the behavioral improvement observed with the combination vitamin B6-magnesium in PDD/autism is associated with concomitant modifications of Erc-Mg values.
13. Folate and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in psychiatric disease
Muskiet FA, Kemperman RF.
J Nutr Biochem. 2006 Nov;17(11):717-27. Epub 2006 May 2.
Schizophrenia, autism and depression do not inherit by Mendel's law, and the search for a genetic basis seems unsuccessful. Schizophrenia and autism relate to low birth weight and pregnancy complications, which are associated with developmental adaptations by "programming". Epigenetics might constitute the basis of programming and depend on folate status and one-carbon metabolism in general. Early folate status of patients with schizophrenia might be compromised as suggested by (i) coinciding incidences of schizophrenia and neural tube defects (NTDs) in the Dutch hunger winter, (ii) coinciding seasonal fluctuations in birth of patients with schizophrenia and NTDs, (iii) higher schizophrenia incidence in immigrants and (iv) higher incidence in methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase 677C-->T homozygotes. Recent studies in schizophrenia and autism point at epigenetic silencing of critical genes or chromosomal loci. The long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), arachidonic acid (AA, from meat) and docosahexaenoic acid (fish) are components of brain phospholipids and modulators of signal transduction and gene expression. Patients with schizophrenia and, possibly, autism exhibit abnormal phospholipid metabolism that might cause local AA depletion and impaired eicosanoid-mediated signal transduction. National fish intakes relate inversely with major and postpartum depressions. Five out of six randomized controlled trials with eicosapentaenoic acid (fish) have shown positive effects in schizophrenia, and 4 of 6 were favorable in depression and bipolar disorders. We conclude that folate and LCPUFA might be important in both the etiology and severity of at least some psychiatric diseases.
14. Abnormally high plasma levels of vitamin B6 in children with autism not taking supplements compared to controls not taking supplements
Adams JB, George F, Audhya T.
J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Jan-Feb;12(1):59-63.
BACKGROUND: There have been many studies of the effect of high-dose supplementation of vitamin B6 on children and adults with autism, with all but one reporting benefits. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to investigate the biochemical basis for vitamin B6 therapy by measuring the level of total vitamin B6 in the plasma of unsupplemented children with autism spectrum disorder compared to unsupplemented control subjects. PARTICIPANTS: Children with autism spectrum disorders (n = 35, age 3-9 years) and unrelated typical children (n = 11, age 6-9 years), all from Arizona, were studied. (This includes the data from 24 children with autism from our previous study.) METHODOLOGY: A microbiologic assay was used to measure the level of total vitamin B6 (including phosphorylated and unphosphorylated forms), in a blinded fashion. RESULTS: Children with autism had a 75% higher level of total vitamin B6 than the controls (medians of 56 versus 32 ng/mL, respectively, p = 0.00002). Most of the autistic children (77%) had levels that were more than 2 standard deviations above the median value of the controls. The autistic girls (n = 5) also had elevated levels (mean of 54.6 ng/mL, median of 60 ng/mL). DISCUSSION: These results are consistent with previous studies that found that: (1) pyridoxal kinase had a very low activity in children with autism and (2) pyridoxal 5 phosphate (PLP) levels are unusually low in children with autism. Thus, it appears that the low conversion of pyridoxal and pyridoxine to PLP results in low levels of PLP, which is the active cofactor for 113 known enzymatic reactions, including the formation of many key neurotransmitters. CONCLUSIONS: Total vitamin B6 is abnormally high in autism, consistent with previous reports of an impaired pyridoxal kinase for the conversion of pyridoxine and pyridoxal to PLP. This may explain the many published studies of benefits of high-dose vitamin B6 supplementation in some children and adults with autism.
15. Magnesium profile in autism
Strambi M et al.
Biol Trace Elem Res. 2006 Feb;109(2):97-104.
The aim of the present study was to determine and compare plasma and erythrocyte concentrations of magnesium in 12 autistic children (10 boys, 2 girls), 17 children with other autistic spectrum disorders (14 boys, 3 girls), 5 girls with classic Rett syndrome, and 14 normal children (7 boys, 7 girls) of the same age. No differences in intracellular Mg were found between controls and pathological subjects; however, autistic children and children with other autistic spectrum disorders had significantly lower plasma concentrations of Mg than normal subjects (p=0.013 and p=0.02, respectively). Although our study population was small, we conclude that children with autistic spectrum disorders require special dietary management. If these cases are diagnosed at an early stage, they can be helped through diet.
16. High levels of homocysteine and low serum paraoxonase 1 arylesterase activity in children with autism
Paşca SP et al.
Life Sci. 2006 Apr 4;78(19):2244-8. Epub 2005 Nov 17.
Autism is a behaviorally defined disorder of unknown etiology that is thought to be influenced by genetic and environmental factors. High levels of homocysteine and oxidative stress are generally associated with neuropsychiatric disorders. The purpose of this study was to compare the level of homocysteine and other biomarkers in children with autism to corresponding values in age-matched healthy children. We measured total homocysteine (tHcy), vitamin B(12), paraoxonase and arylesterase activities of human paraoxonase 1 (PON1) in plasma and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity in erythrocytes from 21 children: 12 with autism (age: 8.29 +/- 2.76 years) and 9 controls (age: 8.33 +/- 1.82 years). We found statistically significant differences in tHcy levels and in arylesterase activity of PON1 in children with autism compared to the control group: 9.83 +/- 2.75 vs. 7.51 +/- 0.93 micromol/L (P < or =0.01) and 72.57 +/- 11.73 vs. 81.83 +/- 7.39 kU/L (P < or =0.005). In the autistic group there was a strong negative correlation between tHcy and GPx activity and the vitamin B(12) level was low or suboptimal. In conclusion, our study shows that in children with autism there are higher levels of tHcy, which is negatively correlated with GPx activity, low PON1 arylesterase activity and suboptimal levels of vitamin B(12).
17. Cerebral folate deficiency with developmental delay, autism, and response to folinic acid
Moretti P et al.
Neurology. 2005 Mar 22;64(6):1088-90.
The authors describe a 6-year-old girl with developmental delay, psychomotor regression, seizures, mental retardation, and autistic features associated with low CSF levels of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, the biologically active form of folates in CSF and blood. Folate and B12 levels were normal in peripheral tissues, suggesting cerebral folate deficiency. Treatment with folinic acid corrected CSF abnormalities and improved motor skills.
18. Relative carnitine deficiency in autism
Filipek PA et al.
J Autism Dev Disord. 2004 Dec;34(6):615-23.
A random retrospective chart review was conducted to document serum carnitine levels on 100 children with autism. Concurrently drawn serum pyruvate, lactate, ammonia, and alanine levels were also available in many of these children. Values of free and total carnitine (p < 0.001), and pyruvate (p = 0.006) were significantly reduced while ammonia and alanine levels were considerably elevated (p < 0.001) in our autistic subjects. The relative carnitine deficiency in these patients, accompanied by slight elevations in lactate and significant elevations in alanine and ammonia levels, is suggestive of mild mitochondrial dysfunction. It is hypothesized that a mitochondrial defect may be the origin of the carnitine deficiency in these autistic children.
19. Oxidative stress in autism
Altern Ther Health Med. 2004 Nov-Dec;10(6):22-36.
[Note: An excellent review of supplements for oxidative stress]
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: Indirect markers are consistent with greater oxidative stress in autism. They include greater free-radical production, impaired energetics and cholinergics, and higher excitotoxic markers. Brain and gut, both abnormal in autism, are particularly sensitive to oxidative injury. Higher red-cell lipid peroxides and urinary isoprostanes in autism signify greater oxidative damage to biomolecules. A preliminary study found accelerated lipofuscin deposition--consistent with oxidative injury to autistic brain in cortical areas serving language and communication. Double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of potent antioxidants--vitamin C or carnosine--significantly improved autistic behavior. Benefits from these and other nutritional interventions may be due to reduction of oxidative stress. Understanding the role of oxidative stress may help illuminate the pathophysiology of autism, its environmental and genetic influences, new treatments, and prevention. OBJECTIVES: Upon completion of this article, participants should be able to: 1. Be aware of laboratory and clinical evidence of greater oxidative stress in autism. 2. Understand how gut, brain, nutritional, and toxic status in autism are consistent with greater oxidative stress. 3. Describe how anti-oxidant nutrients are used in the contemporary treatment of autism.
20. Metabolic biomarkers of increased oxidative stress and impaired methylation capacity in children with autism
James SJ et al.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Dec;80(6):1611-7.
BACKGROUND: Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that usually presents in early childhood and that is thought to be influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Although abnormal metabolism of methionine and homocysteine has been associated with other neurologic diseases, these pathways have not been evaluated in persons with autism. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate plasma concentrations of metabolites in the methionine transmethylation and transsulfuration pathways in children diagnosed with autism. DESIGN: Plasma concentrations of methionine, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH), adenosine, homocysteine, cystathionine, cysteine, and oxidized and reduced glutathione were measured in 20 children with autism and in 33 control children. On the basis of the abnormal metabolic profile, a targeted nutritional intervention trial with folinic acid, betaine, and methylcobalamin was initiated in a subset of the autistic children. RESULTS: Relative to the control children, the children with autism had significantly lower baseline plasma concentrations of methionine, SAM, homocysteine, cystathionine, cysteine, and total glutathione and significantly higher concentrations of SAH, adenosine, and oxidized glutathione. This metabolic profile is consistent with impaired capacity for methylation (significantly lower ratio of SAM to SAH) and increased oxidative stress (significantly lower redox ratio of reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione) in children with autism. The intervention trial was effective in normalizing the metabolic imbalance in the autistic children. CONCLUSIONS: An increased vulnerability to oxidative stress and a decreased capacity for methylation may contribute to the development and clinical manifestation of autism.
21. Pilot study of a moderate dose multivitamin/mineral supplement for children with autistic spectrum disorder
Adams JB, Holloway C.
J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Dec;10(6):1033-9.
OBJECTIVE: Determine the effect of a moderate dose multivitamin/mineral supplement on children with autistic spectrum disorder. DESIGN: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled 3-month study. SUBJECTS: Twenty (20) children with autistic spectrum disorder, ages 3-8 years. RESULTS: A Global Impressions parental questionnaire found that the supplement group reported statistically significant improvements in sleep and gastrointestinal problems compared to the placebo group. An evaluation of vitamin B(6) levels prior to the study found that the autistic children had substantially elevated levels of B6 compared to a control group of typical children (75% higher, p < 0.0000001). Vitamin C levels were measured at the end of the study, and the placebo group had levels that were significantly below average for typical children, whereas the supplement group had near-average levels. DISCUSSION: The finding of high vitamin B(6) levels is consistent with recent reports of low levels of pyridoxal-5-phosphate and low activity of pyridoxal kinase (i.e., pyridoxal is only poorly converted to pyridoxal-5-phosphate, the enzymatically active form). This may explain the functional need for high-dose vitamin B(6) supplementation in many children and adults with autism.
22. Essential fatty acids and phospholipase A2 in autistic spectrum disorders
Bell JG et al.
Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2004 Oct;71(4):201-4.
A health questionnaire based on parental observations of clinical signs of fatty acid deficiency (FAD) showed that patients with autism and Asperger's syndrome (ASP) had significantly higher FAD scores (6.34+/-4.37 and 7.64+/-6.20, respectively) compared to controls (1.78+/-1.68). Patients with regressive autism had significantly higher percentages of 18:0,18:2n-6 and total saturates in their RBC membranes compared to controls, while 24:0, 22:5n-6, 24:1 and the 20:4n-6/20:5n-3 ratio were significantly higher in both regressive autism and ASP groups compared to controls. By comparison, the 18:1n-9 and 20:4n-6 values were significantly lower in patients with regressive autism compared to controls while 22:5n-3, total n-3 and total dimethyl acetals were significantly lower in both regressive autism and ASP groups compared to controls. Storage of RBC at -20 degrees C for 6 weeks resulted in significant reductions in highly unsaturated fatty acid levels in polar lipids of patients with regressive autism, compared to patients with classical autism or ASP, or controls. Patients diagnosed with both autism and ASP showed significantly increased levels of EPA ( approximately 200%) and DHA ( approximately 40%), and significantly reduced levels of ARA ( approximately 20%), 20:3n-6 and ARA/EPA ratio in their RBC polar lipids, when supplemented with EPA-rich fish oils, compared to controls and non-supplemented patients with autism. Patients with both regressive autism and classical autism/Asperger's syndrome had significantly higher concentrations of RBC type IV phospholipase A2 compared to controls. However, patients with autism/ASP, who had taken EPA supplements, had significantly reduced PLA2 concentrations compared to unsupplemented patients with classical autism or ASP.
23. An approach to the nutritional management of autism
Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Sep-Oct;9(5):22-31.
24. Autism, an extreme challenge to integrative medicine. Part 2: medical management
Altern Med Rev. 2002 Dec;7(6):472-99.
Autism and allied autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) present myriad behavioral, clinical, and biochemical abnormalities. Parental participation, advanced testing protocols, and eclectic treatment strategies have driven progress toward cure. Behavioral modification and structured education are beneficial but insufficient. Dietary restrictions, including removal of milk and other casein dairy products, wheat and other gluten sources, sugar, chocolate, preservatives, and food coloring are beneficial and prerequisite to benefit from other interventions. Individualized IgG or IgE testing can identify other troublesome foods but not non-immune mediated food sensitivities. Gastrointestinal improvement rests on controlling Candida and other parasites, and using probiotic bacteria and nutrients to correct dysbiosis and decrease gut permeability. Detoxification of mercury and other heavy metals by DMSA/DMPS chelation can have marked benefit. Documented sulfoxidation-sulfation inadequacies call for sulfur-sulfhydryl repletion and other liver p450 support. Many nutrient supplements are beneficial and well tolerated, including dimethylglycine (DMG) and a combination of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and magnesium, both of which benefit roughly half of ASD cases. Vitamins A, B3, C, and folic acid; the minerals calcium and zinc; cod liver oil; and digestive enzymes, all offer benefit. Secretin, a triggering factor for digestion, is presently under investigation. Immune therapies (pentoxifyllin, intravenous immunoglobulin, transfer factor, and colostrum) benefit selected cases. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids offer great promise. Current pharmaceuticals fail to benefit the primary symptoms and can have marked adverse effects. Individualized, in-depth clinical and laboratory assessments and integrative parent-physician-scientist cooperation are the keys to successful ASD management.
25. Treatment of autism spectrum children with thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide: a pilot study
Lonsdale D, Shamberger RJ, Audhya T.
Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2002 Aug;23(4):303-8.
OBJECTIVES: In a Pilot Study, the clinical and biochemical effects of thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide (TTFD) on autistic spectrum children were investigated. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Ten children were studied. Diagnosis was confirmed through the use of form E2, a computer assessed symptom score. For practical reasons, TTFD was administered twice daily for two months in the form of rectal suppositories, each containing 50 mg of TTFD. Symptomatic responses were determined through the use of the computer assessed Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) forms. The erythrocyte transketolase (TKA) and thiamine pyrophosphate effect (TPPE), were measured at outset and on completion of the study to document intracellular thiamine deficiency. Urines from patients were examined at outset, after 30 days and after 60 days of treatment and the concentrations of SH-reactive metals, total protein, sulfate, sulfite, thiosulfate and thiocyanate were determined. The concentrations of metals in hair were also determined. RESULTS: At the beginning of the study thiamine deficiency was observed in 3 out of the 10 patients. Out of 10 patients, 6 had initial urine samples containing arsenic in greater concentration than healthy controls. Traces of mercury were seen in urines from all of these autistic children. Following administration of TTFD an increase in cadmium was seen in 2 children and in lead in one child. Nickel was increased in the urine of one patient during treatment. Sulfur metabolites in urine did not differ from those measured in healthy children. CONCLUSIONS: Thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide appears to have a beneficial clinical effect on some autistic children, since 8 of the 10 children improved clinically. We obtained evidence of an association of this increasingly occurring disease with presence of urinary SH-reactive metals, arsenic in particular.
26. Metabolic approaches to the treatment of autism spectrum disorders
J Autism Dev Disord. 2000 Oct;30(5):463-9.
Although the exact prevalence of metabolic abnormalities in autism spectrum disorders is unknown, several metabolic defects have been associated with autistic symptoms. These include phenylketonuria, histidinemia, adenylosuccinate lyase deficiency, dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase deficiency, 5'-nucleotidase superactivity, and phosphoribosylpyrophosphate synthetase deficiency. When the metabolic consequences of an enzyme defect are well defined (e.g., phenylketonuria, 5'-nucleotidase superactivity), treatment with diet, drugs, or nutritional supplements may bring about a dramatic reduction in autistic symptoms. This review evaluates evidence for metabolic etiologies in autism spectrum disorders, as well as for the efficacy of dietary and vitamin treatments. The relationship between gastrointestinal abnormalities and autism spectrum disorders is also considered.
27. Melatonin for Insomnia in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders
Andersen IM et al.
J Child Neurol. 2008 Jan 8 [Epub ahead of print]
We describe our experience in using melatonin to treat insomnia, a common sleep concern, in children with autism spectrum disorders. One hundred seven children (2-18 years of age) with a confirmed diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders who received melatonin were identified by reviewing the electronic medical records of a single pediatrician. All parents were counseled on sleep hygiene techniques. Clinical response to melatonin, based on parental report, was categorized as (1) sleep no longer a concern, (2) improved sleep but continued parental concerns, (3) sleep continues to be a major concern, and (4) worsened sleep. The melatonin dose varied from 0.75 to 6 mg. After initiation of melatonin, parents of 27 children (25%) no longer reported sleep concerns at follow-up visits. Parents of 64 children (60%) reported improved sleep, although continued to have concerns regarding sleep. Parents of 14 children (13%) continued to report sleep problems as a major concern, with only 1 child having worse sleep after starting melatonin (1%), and 1 child having undetermined response (1%). Only 3 children had mild side-effects after starting melatonin, which included morning sleepiness and increased enuresis. There was no reported increase in seizures after starting melatonin in children with pre-existing epilepsy and no new-onset seizures. The majority of children were taking psychotropic medications. Melatonin appears to be a safe and well-tolerated treatment for insomnia in children with autism spectrum disorders. Controlled trials to determine efficacy appear warranted.
28. Role of the melatonin system in the control of sleep: therapeutic implications
Pandi-Perumal SR et al.
CNS Drugs. 2007;21(12):995-1018.
The circadian rhythm of pineal melatonin secretion, which is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), is reflective of mechanisms that are involved in the control of the sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin can influence sleep-promoting and sleep/wake rhythm-regulating actions through the specific activation of MT(1) (melatonin 1a) and MT(2) (melatonin 1b) receptors, the two major melatonin receptor subtypes found in mammals. Both receptors are highly concentrated in the SCN. In diurnal animals, exogenous melatonin induces sleep over a wide range of doses. In healthy humans, melatonin also induces sleep, although its maximum hypnotic effectiveness, as shown by studies of the timing of dose administration, is influenced by the circadian phase. In both young and elderly individuals with primary insomnia, nocturnal plasma melatonin levels tend to be lower than those in healthy controls. There are data indicating that, in affected individuals, melatonin therapy may be beneficial for ameliorating insomnia symptoms. Melatonin has been successfully used to treat insomnia in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism, as well as in other neurodevelopmental disorders in which sleep disturbance is commonly reported. In circadian rhythm sleep disorders, such as delayed sleep-phase syndrome, melatonin can significantly advance the phase of the sleep/wake rhythm. Similarly, among shift workers or individuals experiencing jet lag, melatonin is beneficial for promoting adjustment to work schedules and improving sleep quality. The hypnotic and rhythm-regulating properties of melatonin and its agonists (ramelteon, agomelatine) make them an important addition to the armamentarium of drugs for treating primary and secondary insomnia and circadian rhythm sleep disorders.
29. Abnormal melatonin synthesis in autism spectrum disorders
Melke J et al.
Mol Psychiatry. 2008 Jan;13(1):90-8. Epub 2007 May 15.
Melatonin is produced in the dark by the pineal gland and is a key regulator of circadian and seasonal rhythms. A low melatonin level has been reported in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but the underlying cause of this deficit was unknown. The ASMT gene, encoding the last enzyme of melatonin synthesis, is located on the pseudo-autosomal region 1 of the sex chromosomes, deleted in several individuals with ASD. In this study, we sequenced all ASMT exons and promoters in individuals with ASD (n=250) and compared the allelic frequencies with controls (n=255). Non-conservative variations of ASMT were identified, including a splicing mutation present in two families with ASD, but not in controls. Two polymorphisms located in the promoter (rs4446909 and rs5989681) were more frequent in ASD compared to controls (P=0.0006) and were associated with a dramatic decrease in ASMT transcripts in blood cell lines (P=2 x 10(-10)). Biochemical analyses performed on blood platelets and/or cultured cells revealed a highly significant decrease in ASMT activity (P=2 x 10(-12)) and melatonin level (P=3 x 10(-11)) in individuals with ASD. These results indicate that a low melatonin level, caused by a primary deficit in ASMT activity, is a risk factor for ASD. They also support ASMT as a susceptibility gene for ASD and highlight the crucial role of melatonin in human cognition and behavior.
30. Randomized controlled trial of melatonin for children with autistic spectrum disorders and sleep problems
Garstang J, Wallis M.
Child Care Health Dev. 2006 Sep;32(5):585-9.
BACKGROUND: Melatonin is often used for autistic children with sleep disorders, despite a lack of published evidence in this population. METHODS: A randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind crossover trial of melatonin was undertaken in 11 children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). RESULTS: Seven children completed the trial. Sleep latency was 2.6 h [95% confidence intervals (CI) 2.28-2.93] baseline, 1.91 h (95% CI 1.78-2.03) with placebo and 1.06 h (95% CI 0.98-1.13) with melatonin. Wakings per night were 0.35 (95% CI 0.18-0.53) baseline, 0.26 (95% CI 0.20-0.34) with placebo and 0.08 (95% CI 0.04-0.12) with melatonin. Total sleep duration was 8.05 h (95% CI 7.65-8.44) baseline, 8.75 h (95% CI 8.56-8.98) with placebo and 9.84 h (95% CI 9.68-9.99) with melatonin. CONCLUSIONS: Although the study was small owing to recruitment difficulties, it still provides evidence of effectiveness of melatonin in children with sleep difficulties and ASD, which we predict a larger study would confirm.
31. An open-label study of controlled-release melatonin in treatment of sleep disorders in children with autism
Giannotti F et al.
J Autism Dev Disord. 2006 Aug;36(6):741-52.
Long-term effectiveness of controlled-release melatonin in 25 children, aged 2.6-9.6 years with autism without other coexistent pathologies was evaluated openly. Sleep patterns were studied using Children's Sleep Habits Questionnaire (CSHQ) and sleep diaries at baseline, after 1-3-6 months melatonin treatment and 1 month after discontinuation. Sleep diary and CSHQ showed a more problematic sleep in autistic children compared with controls. During treatment sleep patterns of all children improved. After discontinuation 16 children returned to pre-treatment score, readministration of melatonin was again effective. Treatment gains were maintained at 12 and 24-month follow-ups. No adverse side effects were reported. In conclusion, controlled-release melatonin may provide an effective and well-tolerated treatment for autistic children with chronic sleep disorders.
32. Nocturnal excretion of 6-sulphatoxymelatonin in children and adolescents with autistic disorder
Tordjman S et al.
Biol Psychiatry. 2005 Jan 15;57(2):134-8.
BACKGROUND: Many studies in autistic disorder report sleep problems and altered circadian rhythms, suggesting abnormalities in melatonin physiology. Additionally, melatonin, a pineal gland hormone produced from serotonin, is of special interest in autistic disorder given reported alterations in central and peripheral serotonin neurobiology. METHODS: Nocturnal urinary excretion of 6-sulphatoxymelatonin was measured by radioimmunoassay in groups of children and adolescents with autistic disorder (n = 49) and normal control individuals (n = 88) matched on age, sex, and Tanner stage of puberty. RESULTS: Nocturnal 6-sulphatoxymelatonin excretion rate was significantly and substantially lower in patients with autism than in normal controls (mean +/- SEM, .75 +/- .11 vs. 1.80 +/- .17 microg/hr, p =.0001), and was significantly negatively correlated with severity of autistic impairments in verbal communication and play (p < .05). CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate clearly that nocturnal production of melatonin is reduced in autism. Further research is warranted in order to understand the mechanisms underlying the lower melatonin production, to assess the impact of altered melatonin on the pathophysiology and behavioral expression of autistic disorder, and to determine the utility of melatonin administration in individuals with autism.