Dietary Supplements and Autism
Dietary supplements (also called nutritional supplements or nutraceuticals) are products intended to improve or enhance the diet.
Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbals and botanicals, and many other products. They may come in a variety of forms including tablets, capsules and powders, as well as drinks and energy bars.
Dietary supplements are sometimes combined with other therapies. For example, some people advocate taking one or more dietary supplements, following a particular diet and using detoxification techniques such as chelation.
The following is a list of some common dietary supplements which have been reported to be beneficial to people on the autism spectrum.
Also known as MVMs, these contain a combination of vitamins and minerals, and sometimes other ingredients as well.
- Vitamin A (also known as retinol) is found in animal sources such as eggs, meat, fish, milk, cheese. Beta carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A, is found in vegetable sources such as carrots, squashes, and most dark green, leafy vegetables.
- Vitamin B6 (also known as pyridoxine) is found in beans, nuts, legumes, eggs, meats, fish, whole grains and, fortified breads and cereals.
- Vitamin B12 is found in virtually all meat products and certain algae such as seaweed. Other sources include fish, dairy products and yeast extract.
- Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is found in all fruits and vegetables.
- Vitamin D is found in some foods, such as oily fish and eggs, and can also be made in the body after exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.
- Folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) is found in small amounts in many foods including broccoli, Brussels sprouts and peas.
- Calcium is found in many foods including dairy products, green leafy vegetables, soybean products, baked goods made from fortified flour and some nuts.
- Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods including green leafy vegetables (such as spinach) and nuts, as well as bread, fish, meat and dairy foods.
- Zinc is found in meat, shellfish, milk and dairy foods such as cheese, bread, and cereal products such as wheatgerm.
Herbals and botanicals
- Ginkgo biloba is a concentrated extract taken from the leaves of the ginko tree.
- Luteolin is a flavonoid found in many plants including celery, green pepper and thyme.
- Quercetin belongs to a group of plant pigments called flavonoids that give many fruits, flowers and vegetables their colour.
- St. John's Wort is a flowering plant in the family hypericaceae.
- Yokukansan is a traditional Asian herbal medicine containing a range of rhizomes and roots.
- Carnitine is the generic term for a group of natural substances such as L-carnitine, which are found in nearly all cells of the body and in certain foodstuffs, such as meat, fish, poultry and milk.
- Carnosine is a naturally occurring dipeptide, that is, a molecule consisting of two amino acids, found in the human body.
- Digestive enzymes are proteins such as bromelain, which help to break down food so that the body can absorb it.
- Dimethylglycine is a derivative of the amino acid glycine found in plant and animal cells and in certain foods such as beans and liver.
- Glutathione is a substance produced naturally by the liver and is found in fruits, vegetables and meats.
- Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that cannot be created within the human body. It must therefore be obtained from foodstuffs, such as some plant seeds and fish-oil.
- Probiotics are live microorganisms thought to be beneficial to the host organism. Prebiotics are natural substances in some foods that are supposed to encourage the growth of probiotics.
The dosage will depend to a certain extent on the characteristics of the specific dietary supplement being used (trace elements such as zinc should only be given in very, very small doses) and the characteristics of the individual taking the supplement (children generally need smaller doses than adults).
However, care should be taken not to exceed recommended dosages set by organisations such as the Food Standards Agency or the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency. This is because high dosages of some substances can cause problems. For example, according to Bazian (2011), levels of vitamin C above 1,000mg a day can cause abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
Dietary supplements in the UK carry labels denoting the percentage of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) contained in the product.
- 31 Oct 2017
- Last Review
- 01 Apr 2017
- Next Review
- 01 Apr 2020