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Dimethylglycine and Autism Ranking: Limited negative evidence

Dimethylglycine to treat autismDimethylglycine (also known as DMG) is a derivative of the amino acid glycine. It is found naturally in plant and animal cells and in certain foods such as beans, cereal grains, and liver.

Dimethylglycine acts as a building block for many important substances in the body including amino acids, hormones and neuro-transmitters. It also appears to play an important role in neurological functions and in the immune system.

Some people think that some individuals on the autism spectrum have a range of nutritional and metabolic problems. These include low levels of nutrients, high levels of oxidative stress (a chemical state within cells that can increase cellular damage) and difficulties with metabolic processes (such as digestion).

Some people think that these nutritional and metabolic differences may be the cause of some of the core features of autism (such as impaired communication and social difficulties) and related issues (such as challenging behaviours).

They also believe that by taking dietary supplements, such as dimethylglycine, they can reduce some of those symptoms. However, the exact mechanism by which dimethylglycine might do this is unclear

Our Opinion

There is currently no agreement amongst scientists as to whether individuals on the autism spectrum have a particular pattern of vitamin, mineral or other nutrient deficiency.

There is a limited amount of research evidence, based on two scientifically valid and reliable trails, to suggest that dimethylglycine is not effective in improving social, language or other functioning in children and adults on the autism spectrum.

However there are many positive anecdotal reports about the benefits of dimethylglycine, which is relatively cheap, easy to use, and appears to have no significant side effects for most people.

For these reasons, we believe that further research into dimethylglycine may be justified.

Disclaimer

Please read our Disclaimer on Autism Interventions


Audience

According to the WebMD website, accessed on 16 January 2017, dimethylglycine is used by people with a range of conditions including:

“... attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), allergies, respiratory disorders, pain and swelling (inflammation), cancer, alcoholism, and drug addiction.

The WebMD website goes on to state that DMG

“… is also used to improve speech and behavior in autism, nervous system function, liver function, the body’s use of oxygen, and athletic performance. “

The WebMD website also states, however, that there is insufficient evidence to determine if DMG is effective for most of these conditions and that it is probably ineffective for conditions such as autism and epilepsy.

Key Features

According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website, accessed on 16 January 2017,

“Dimethylglycine (DMG) is a derivative of the amino acid glycine. It is found naturally in plant and animal cells and in certain foods such as beans, cereal grains, and liver. DMG is produced in cells during the metabolism of choline and is considered an antioxidant and enhancer of oxygenation at the cellular level”

According to the Autism Research Institute (2008),

“Dimethylglycine is technically classified as a food. It is found, in very small amounts, in some foods, such as brown rice and liver. Chemically and physiologically, it resembles the water-soluble vitamins, such as the B vitamins. The main reason it is not classified as a vitamin is that there are no specific symptoms associated with a deficiency of DMG.”

DMG comes in a variety of forms including capsules, tablets and in liquid form.

Dosage

According to the WebMD website, accessed on 16 January 2017,

“The appropriate dose of dimethylglycine depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for dimethylglycine. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.”

Aims and Claims

Aims

Some people think that some individuals on the autism spectrum have a range of nutritional and metabolic problems. These include low levels of nutrients, high levels of oxidative stress (a chemical state within cells that can increase cellular damage) and difficulties with metabolic processes (such as digestion).

Some people think that these nutritional and metabolic differences may be the cause of some of the core features of autism (such as impaired communication and social difficulties) and related issues (such as challenging behaviours).

They also believe that by taking dietary supplements, such as dimethylglycine, they can reduce some of those symptoms. However the exact mechanism by which dimethylglycine might do this is unclear.

For example, Bolman and Richmond (1999) speculated that DMG might act as a neurotransmitter, changing the rate of amino acid activity in the brain, enabling it to work more effectively. Kern et al (2001), speculated that DMG might increase methylation, leading to a reduction in lactic acid build-up and enhanced oxygen use during times of hypoxia, enabling the body to work more effectively.

Claims

There have been numerous claims made for the use of dimethylglycine supplements as an intervention for people on the autism spectrum. For example:

Rimland (1990) reported “In some cases dramatic results have been seen within 24 hours: A Los Angeles mother was driving on the freeway, three-year-old Kathy in the back seat, five-year-old mute autistic son Sammy in the front. DMG had been started the day before. Kathy began to cry. Sammy turned and spoke his first words: ‘Don't cry, Kathy.’ The mother, stunned, almost crashed the car.”

The Autism Research Institute (2008) claims that “Many parents have reported that, within a few days of starting DMG, the child's behavior improved noticeably, better eye contact was seen, frustration tolerance increased, the child's speech improved, or more interest and ability in speaking was observed.”

Rimland also claims (2001) that “Over the past 40 years I have encountered a great many cases of severely SIB/A [self-injurious and assaultive behavior] individuals who have responded wonderfully well to nutritional supplementation, particularly high dose B6 and magnesium, and DMG.”

Cost and Time

Cost

The cost of buying DMG supplements depends on a range of factors including the quantity you buy, the supplier, delivery charges etc.

We found a wide range of suppliers providing DMG supplements for a wide range of prices when we did an online search on 27 January 2017. Prices varied from £6.50 to £28.99 for 100 tablets.

Time

Edelson (2008) recommends a daily dose of DMG while Rimland (1990) states that

“If DMG is going to work, its effects will usually be seen within a week or so, though it should be tried for a few weeks or a month before giving up.”

However we would strongly recommend that you review your use of DMG supplements on a regular basis with a responsible health professional such as a health visitor or GP. This is because you are likely to experience some harm if you take any dietary supplement in large amounts over long periods of time

Risks and Safety

Hazards

According to the WebMD website, accessed on 16 January 2017,

“Dimethylglycine might be safe to use short-term, up to 28 days. The safety of long-term use is unknown.”

However, according to Xia (2011),

“DMG generally has a very safe record. A small percentage of children may exhibit hyperactivity which can be moderated by vitamins known as folates.”

Contraindications

There are no known contraindications (something which makes a particular treatment or procedure potentially inadvisable) for dimethylglycine.

However all nutritional supplements in the wrong doses can cause harm and may also interact dangerously with any medications that are being taken.

Therefore professional advice should always be obtained before embarking on a course of DMG supplements, especially if the individual is already taking a medication or is unwell physically in any way.

Suppliers and Availability

Suppliers

DMG supplements are available from a wide range of suppliers including health food stores, chemists and pharmacies, professional health care providers and online stores.

The quality of DMG supplements varies enormously depending on the supplier, the supplement, the ingredients and manufacturing process.

Credentials

Dimethylglycine is sold as a foodstuff without a prescription in chemists and health food stores. Therefore some providers will have no professional credentials or qualifications.

If you are contemplating taking DMG supplements, you should seek advice from a paediatrician, GP or dietitian. The British Dietetic Association has information about qualified dietitians in the UK.

History

According to Rimland (1990), in 1965 Russian scientists discovered that calcium pangamate led to considerable improvement in the speech of some children with learning disabilities who had not been able to use speech to communicate. Subsequent research has shown the essential factor in calcium pangamate to be dimethylglycine.

Soon afterward psychiatrist Allan Cott began to use pangamic acid on children, some of whom were autistic. Many of Cott's patients responded in the same way the Russian children had.

Following various legal battles, the sale of DMG is now permitted, as long as it is not referred to as a vitamin, and as long as it is sold as a food and not a drug.

Current Research

We have identified two scientific trials of dimethylglycine for the treatment of people on the autism spectrum published in peer-reviewed journals. There is also a single case study in which the parents administered a mixture of supplements (Vitamin B6, magnesium and dimethylglycine).

These studies included a total of 46 individuals aged 3 to 30.

The two clinical trials (Bolman and Richmond, 1999; and Kern et al. 2001) reported no significant improvements following the use of dimethylglycine.

The single case study (Xia, 2011) reported the child's “mother has also noticed tremendous improvements in him. His major responses to the treatment included his increased ability in communicating with others, more verbal, and more eye contacts.”Kern et al, 2001 reported some side effects “In the dimethylglycine group, parents reported difficulty sleeping in one child, increased aggressiveness in one child, and increased activity (hyperactivity) in two children.”

Status Research

There are a number of limitations to all of the research studies published to date.

The study by Xia (2011) is a case report of a single child using a pre-post-test design. The parents administered Vitamin B6 and magnesium for four months and then added dimethylglycine supplements for a further month, making it difficult to know if any changes were due to the DMG or the other supplements or the combination of all of them.

The study by Kern et al (2001) is a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 39 children lasting four weeks. The children who were randomly assigned to the dimethylglycine group were more severely affected than the children in the placebo group.

The study by Bolman and Richard (1999) was a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial lasting three and a half months. The authors noted that the major methodological weaknesses of the study was the low dosage of dimethylglycine (half the amount recommended by researchers such as Rimland and Edelson) and the small number of participants (only ten children, two of whom dropped out).

For a comprehensive list of potential flaws in research studies, please see  ‘Why some autism research studies are flawed’

Future Research

Summary of Current Research Studies

There is strong evidence, based on two scientifically valid and reliable trials, that dimethylglycine is not effective in improving social, language or other functioning in children or adults on the autism spectrum.

Recommendations for Future Research

Future studies could investigate whether DMG is a safe and effective intervention for individuals on the autism spectrum who have abnormal immune functions.

Studies and Trials

This section provides details of scientific studies into the effectiveness of dimethylglycine for people on the autism spectrum which have been published in English-language, peer-reviewed journals. If you know of any other studies we should include please email info@researchautism.net with the details.

Please note that Research Autism is unable to supply publications unless we are listed as the publisher. However, if you are a UK resident you may be able to obtain them from your local public library, your college library or direct from the publisher.

Other Reading

This section provides details of other publications on this topic. If you know of any other publications we should include please email info@researchautism.net with the details.

Please note that Research Autism is unable to supply publications unless we are listed as the publisher. However, if you are a UK resident you may be able to obtain them from your local public library, your college library or direct from the publisher.

Updated
31 Oct 2017
Last Review
01 Apr 2017
Next Review
01 Apr 2020