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Up Antioxidant Activity To Improve Behavior, Study Says

By Shana R. Spindler, Ph.D. on December 2, 2013


Background: Some children with autism have deficits in antioxidant activity, which normally detoxifies cells. An antioxidant is a molecule that is capable of neutralizing damage causing free radicals—most people know of the antioxidant Vitamin C. Glutathione is another antioxidant, and it is lower in some people with autism. Antioxidant protection is critical for the immune system and neurons, which are particularly susceptible to cellular damage.


What’s new: Researchers at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute report that nutritional supplementation aimed at increasing glutathione activity improves autism-related behaviors. In the study, 40 children with autism who had low levels of active glutathione received supplements of methylcobalamin and folinic acid, factors in glutathione production and activation. After three months, changes in blood levels of active glutathione correlated with increased scores on behavior measurements. The children made large gains in expressive communication, daily living skills, and various social skills. Thirty-seven children completed the study with minimal side effects, mostly hyperactivity and reduced sleep.


Why it’s important: Two key points stand out from this study. First, antioxidant levels may serve as a useful biological marker for a subset of autism. Second, nutritional supplementation may indeed help children who fall within this category. This preliminary study warrants further investigation with a randomized, double blind trial.

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