A Little Known Yet Powerful Cause (And Treatment) for Childhood Autism
By: Dave Asprey
December 3, 2012
In a past article on the Better Baby Blog, you learned how the right gut bacteria and lifestyle interventions could reduce your child’s risk of autism. Breaking research is showing that a new intervention may be even more powerful – glutathione.
A New Possible Cause of Autism
New research is beginning to show that toxins and oxidative stress contribute to autism. These toxins and oxidative stress damage brain cells and upset the delicate balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, which can cause neurological damage, and in extreme cases, autism. Glutathione is the most powerful antioxidant in the body. One of its key functions is to reduce oxidative stress and remove toxins. If you don’t have enough – bad things start to happen. Things like oxidative brain damage.
Children with autism have low levels of glutathione, and often have impaired glutathione detox pathways. The causes of this are many. Increased mercury levels in the environment, bad gut bacteria, and poor diet can all decrease glutathione levels. However, knowing this also lets you attack the problem.
A large-scale review published in the journal of Nutrition & Metabolism looked for possible mechanisms by which glutathione levels could affect autism risk. They found that reduced glutathione synthesis could easily be a key contributor to autism. This theory has sparked a new field of research focused on optimizing glutathione levels as a way to treat autism.
Glutathione for Autism
If children with autism have low levels of glutathione, could increasing their glutathione levels decrease their symptoms of autism?
To answer this question, researchers from Stanford University decided to test the effects of N-acetyl cysteine supplementation on autism symptoms in children. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a precursor to glutathione that increases the body’s production of this vital antioxidant. NAC may also reduce the formation of glutamate, and excitatory neurotransmitter that kills brain cells in excess.
In this new study, 33 children were randomized into two groups. One group consumed 900 milligrams of NAC per day for 4 weeks, and the dose was increased by 900 milligrams every 4 weeks for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the kids in the intervention group were consuming 2.7 grams of NAC per day. The other group took a placebo for the same amount of time. At the end of the trial, the kids who consumed NAC had a reduction in irritability scores by 80%. There were also minimal side effects.
This was an early study, and more trials are needed to confirm the results. However, there’s no reason you can’t take advantage of this new evidence and start Bulletproofing your child against autism before he or she is even born. In a future article, you’ll learn how to fight autism with glutathione.
There are three ways to increase levels of glutathione:
1) Take precursors like whey protein and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) (quality variations may interfere with raising glutathione levels)
2) Get glutathione injections (expensive and inconvenient); or
3) Take an oral glutathione supplement, particularly liposomal glutathione. Liposome capsules protect the glutathione from the digestive process so it’s easily absorbed.
Liposomal glutathione is the form we used during both our pregnancies, and we still take it regularly as it helps with inflammation and aids in detoxification of your body.