Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation


Can Nutritional Supplements Alleviate Autism?
First Published: ENews - January 2010

While it is estimated one in 160 Australian children have autism or a related developmental disorder, the cause of these disorders are unknown.

“We believe defective genes, combined with exposure to environmental insults, may result in a series of dysfunctional interactions between genes and nutrients.” Assoc Prof Young said.

International research has shown that the folate/methionine metabolic pathway is significantly different in many children with autism compared to non-autistic children. Folate (a B complex vitamin) and methionine (an amino acid) are taken in from the diet and required for many key biochemical reactions in the body including the maintenance of healthy DNA.

Working in conjunction with CSIRO Food and Nutritional Sciences, and University of South Australia researchers, Assoc Prof Young is leading the behavioural aspects of a study which seeks to investigate the way Australian children with autism metabolise methionine.

150 South Australian children (50 diagnosed with autistic disorder, 50 non-autistic siblings, and 50 with no family history of autism) will be screened as part of the study.

The researchers hope to establish whether children with autism have an abnormal folate/methionine pathway and whether these abnormalities correlate with behavioural patterns observed in the child.

They then hope to determine whether supplements to correct the blood profile, such as specific vitamins and nutrients, can improve autistic behaviour. This could potentially lead to better outcomes for individuals with autism through personalised nutrition based on an individual’s genetic makeup.

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