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Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Supplements and Autism Ranking: Insufficient/Mixed evidence

Vitamin capsules

Multi-vitamin/mineral supplements (often known in the USA as MVM supplements, multis, multiples or mega-vitamins) contain a combination of vitamins and minerals, and sometimes other ingredients as well.

There are many types of multi-vitamin/mineral supplements in the marketplace. Manufacturers choose which vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients, as well as their amounts, to include in their products.

Some people think that certain 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 cause some of the core features of autism (such as impaired communication and social difficulties) and related issues (such as challenging behaviours). 

They also think that some of these problems can be overcome by taking multi-vitamin/mineral supplements, often in combination with other therapies such as special diets.

Our Opinion

There is some evidence that certain individuals on the autism spectrum may have nutritional and metabolic problems. However, the number of individuals on the autism spectrum who have these problems is not clear. It is also unclear whether these problems or differences are more common in individuals on the autism spectrum than in other individuals. It is also unknown whether these problems cause or worsen symptoms (of autism or related issues) or arise because of autism, or are completely unrelated to autism. 

There is a very limited amount of low quality evidence (three group studies) on the use of multi-vitamin/mineral supplements as an intervention for people on the autism spectrum.  This is insufficient to determine if multi-vitamin/mineral supplements provide any benefits to people on the autism spectrum beyond the benefits they provide to people who are not on the autism spectrum. 

There is a need for further research into the use of multi-vitamin/mineral supplements for people on the autism spectrum. Specifically there is a need for studies which use robust methodology, for example, large-scale, placebo-controlled, randomised, double-blind trials carried out on several sites. 

That research should also identify which individuals are most likely to benefit from which formulations and dosages; should determine if multi-vitamin/mineral supplements can be used as one of the elements within comprehensive, multi-component, treatment model; should compare multi-vitamin/mineral supplements with other interventions which are designed to achieve similar results, such as special diets.

That research should also identify if multi-vitamin/mineral supplements have any beneficial effects in the medium to long term and in real world settings. It should also involve people on the autism spectrum in the design, development and evaluation of those studies. 

In the meantime, we recommend that if you are taking multi-vitamin/mineral supplements you should follow guidance on their usage from the appropriate organisation in your own country (such as the Food Standards Agency in the UK or the Office of Dietary Supplements in the USA).

Disclaimer

Please read our Disclaimer on Autism Interventions


Updated
19 Dec 2017
Last Review
01 Nov 2017
Next Review
01 Nov 2020