There is definitely a wealth of information about dietary supplements
and interventions, and homeopathic remedies used to treat autism. The
question, however, as you have asked, is Do they actually work?
I believe you will find your most comprehensive answer in the first
Effects of Medications, Biomedical/Non-Drug Supplements and Special
The Autism Research Institute recently published Parent Ratings of
Behavioral Effects of Biomedical Interventions, which collected data
from more than 21,500 parents on the perceived effectiveness of Drugs,
Biomedical/Non-Drug/Supplements, and Special Diets in combatting
autistic symptoms. The results are correlated based on three
categories: made worse (ratings 1 and 2), no effect (ratings 3 and
4), and made better (ratings 5 and 6). The Better:Worse column
gives the number of children who Got Better for each one who Got
To view the results of the various interventions, see the article at
Additional information on various supplements and nutritional
Effects of Vitamin A
A presentation of an article by Dr. Mary Megsun at the 1999 Defeat
Autism Now conference, titled Is Autism A G-Alpha Protein Defect
Reversible with Natural Vitamin A? lends credence to the positive
effects of Vitamin A supplementation on the behavior of autistic
Our early experience with treatment with natural cis forms of
Vitamin A in Cod Liver Oil (CLO) in these autistic children, followed
by stimulation of blocked acetylcholine receptors for
neurotransmitters affected with a blockage of G-alpha pathways in the
cell, is promising. There are dramatic, immediate improvements in
language, vision, attention and social interaction in some of these
children, as evidenced by the following case reports.
The entire article, complete with journal references, may be read at
Effects of Vitamin B6 and Magnesium
An excerpt from the article Vitamin B6 and Magnesium, by Stephen
M. Edelson, Ph.D. Center for the Study of Autism. (2002) at
B6 and magnesium have received more scientific support than any
other biological intervention for autism. There are 18 studies showing
that B6 and magnesium are beneficial to about half of autistic
individuals. Eleven of these studies involved a double-blind placebo
design. These studies have documented decreases in behavioral
problems, improvements in appropriate behavior, and normalization of
brain wave activity and urine biochemistry. There is also evidence
that B6 and magnesium may reduce seizure activity. Parent reports also
include: improvements in attention, learning, speech/language, and eye
contact. Information about these research studies along with other
relevant information can be obtained from the Autism Research
Institute (e.g., answers to frequently asked questions, dosage/weight
It is very important to give magnesium along with B6 because B6
requires extra magnesium to be effective, and thus may cause a
deficiency. Problems associated with magnesium deficiency include:
enuresis (bedwetting), irritability/agitation, and sound sensitivity.
Occasionally, an autistic person exhibits one or more of these
behaviors when given B6 along with magnesium. In these cases, the
person may need more than the recommended amount of magnesium.
Magnesium is relatively safe--too high of a dose will cause diarrhea
(e.g., Milk of Magnesia).
A comprehensive multivitamin/multi-mineral supplement is strongly
recommended since vitamins and minerals assist in metabolizing B6 and
Also read The most air-tight study in psychiatry? Vitamin B6 in
autism, by Bernard Rimland, PhD. Autism Research Institute (2000) at
I will let the article speak for itself!
Nutritional Deficiencies in the Autistic Child
An article titled Nutritional Perspectives on the Behavioral
Child, by Woody McGinnins, MD (11/18/1999) at
http://www.autism.org/mcginnis.html goes into great detail on
nutritional deficiencies seen in autistic children, and suggests
various forms of supplementation. Specific vitamins and minerals
mentioned are Vitamin B6 with Magnesium, Zinc with Manganese, Calcium,
and Vitamins C and E.
The Autism Center website has a wonderful excerpt taken from Chapter
7 of Pervasive Developmental Disorders: Finding a Diagnosis and
Getting Help by Mitzi Waltz, copyright 1999 by O'Reilly & Associates,
Inc. The excerpt provides an extremely comprehensive overview of the
dietary and nutritional supplements currently being used to help with
The list is quite lengthy and supported by footnotes from scientific
journals. To review the excerpt, please go to
Some of the nutritional supplements mentioned include calcium,
magnesium, iron, essential fatty acids, melatonin, octocosanol,
lecitithin and various herbal remedies.
Another excerpt from Appendix F of Autistic Spectrum Disorders:
Finding a Diagnosis and Getting Help by Mitzi Waltz, copyright 2002 by
O'Reilly & Associates, which focuses specifically on nutritional
supplements is listed on the Autism website at
The following information highlighted in the article information is
important to remember when considering supplements in the treatment of
Because medications have not been proven to cure or reliably treat
all cases and symptoms of autistic spectrum disorders, many people are
interested in alternative medicine. We cannot recommend any of the
possibilities listed here, but we encourage you to explore those that
interest you in concert with your physician, a nutritionist, or other
appropriate health professional.
The information included here was gathered from a wide variety of
sources, including standard herbal references, European studies of
standardized herbal extracts, clinical data from the U.S. National
Institutes of Health's alternative medicine project, the Autism
Research Institute's reports on survey results, clinical trials of
vitamins and some other substances and, in some cases, anecdotal
reports from health care practitioners and parents. Because few of
these remedies have undergone the intense scientific scrutiny given
pharmaceuticals, there is less information available about possible
side effects and interactions.
Please refer to the article for an extensive list of supplements and
The non-effectiveness of phytonutritional supplements
A 1997 study by the Chileda Organization examined the effect of
phytonutritional supplements on the symptoms associated with the
condition of autism
.because anecdotal evidence has been presented
suggesting children with autism show significant improvement in the
level of functioning after taking phytonutritional supplements.
Phytonutritional dietary supplements are naturally occurring, food
grade polysaccharides, combined with flash freeze-dried, vine ripened
fruits and vegetables.
The outcome of the study revealed no significant differences between
treatment and control group in the study. Therefore, some more
specific analysis was conducted in order to investigate some of the
potential intervening variables. Further analysis indicated little
change between the two groups.
Read The Efficacy of Phytonutritional Dietary Supplements for the
Treatment of Autism, by William Zollweg, Ph. D., William Deering, M.
D., Patrick Scott, M. D., Kirby Lentz, M.Ed. University of
Wisconsin-La Crosse, Franciscan Mayo Medical Center, January, 1997. at
Removing Gluten and casein from the diet
An excerpt from a research abstract titled Review of
psychopharmacological treatments in adolescents and adults with
autistic disorders in Encephale 2002 May-Jun;28(3):248-54 at
Gluten and casein free diet: An improvement of social behavior have
been reported by some parents after these diets. No controlled study
has validated this observation.
An excerpt from a research abstract titled Reports on dietary
intervention in autistic disorders, by Knivsber AM, Reichelt KL,
Nodland M. Nutr Neurosci 2001;4(1):25-37 at
Gluten and/or casein free diet has been implemented to reduce
since early in the eighties. Over the last twelve
years various studies on this dietary intervention have been published
in addition to anecdotal, parental reports. The scientific studies
include both groups of participants as well as single cases, and
beneficial results are reported in all, but one study. While some
studies are based on urinary peptide abnormalities, others are not.
The reported results are, however, more or less identical; reduction
of autistic behaviour, increased social and communicative skills, and
reappearance of autistic traits after the diet has been broken.
A fascinating article from the author of the book, Mitzi Waltz, may
be of interest to you. Although it does not generally address
nutritional supplementation, it is an interesting overview of autism
in general. Autistic Spectrum Disorders: An Interview with
Author-Advocate Mitzi Waltz, by Linda Lamb (7/9/2002) can be read at
At the request of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US
Marshals seized dietary supplements making drug claims from the
Humphrey Laboratories of Lake Oswego, Oregon, doing business as
Kirkman Laboratories. U.S. Marshals seized hundreds of bottles of
Kirkman's HypoAllergenic Taurine Capsules after FDA determined that
these products made unsubstantiated claims to treat autism, a
neurobehavioral disorder that begins in early childhood.
Read FDA Seizes Dietary Supplements with Drug Claims. FDA News
(10/17/2002) at http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2002/NEW00845.html
An extensive list of autism links can be found at
I hope you find this information helpful. If you need additional
clarification, please dont hesitate to ask.
Google Search strategy
+dietary +supplements +autism
Nutritional supplements autism
Diet and autism
Clarification of Answer by
06 Nov 2002 12:27 PST
Yes, I am happy to supply you with some information on Carnosine.
Before I do, however, let me thank you for the opportunity to work on
this question. It has been fascinating. I have learned so much, and I
hope I will be able to impart this information to others with autistic
children at some time.
An article titled L-Carnosine Could Help Autistic Children, by
Cherie Bank. NBC10 Healthwatch (10/11/2002) at
http://www.nbc10.com/health/1716206/detail.html provides a very
promising overview of studies conducted by Dr. Micheal Chez, utilizing
L-Carnosine to help autistic children. Some excerpts follow:
A new study by a Chicago area doctors shows that an herb found in
health stores may be the breakthrough parents have been waiting for to
treat children who have autism.
More and more research shows that the frontal lobes and the temporal
lobes control emotion, epileptic activity, cognitive ability,
expressive speech, abstract thinking," Chez said.
"Chez said that L-Carnosine apparently works on those parts of the
brain. So far, he's treated about 1,000 children with a 90 percent
success rate. In some children, the change has been dramatic.
Read the entire article to find out how one couple saw such dramatic
changes in their own children after L-Carnosine supplementation.
Excerpts from a similar article, titled Protein Shows Promise in
Treating Autism. NBC!) Healthwatch (10/9/2002) at
Eight-year-old Jonathan Sieger is autistic. Jane McDonald, 6, has
developmental disorders. Drugs and therapies help their conditions,
but they are both showing even more improvement recently by taking a
simple protein found in health food stores.
Jonathan and Jane have been taking a synthetic version of a natural
protein called l-carnosine. Their pediatric neurologist, Dr. Michael
Chez of Lake Bluff, Ill., has recently completed the first study of
"It affected language, receptive language, eye contact,
communication, all of which are things which children with autism have
big gaps with," Chez said.
Over an eight-week period, Chez's study showed that carnosine
improved behavior and communication by 16 percent. Social interaction
improved by 27 percent and, in just four weeks, parents reported an
overall improvement that more than doubled through the length of the
Carnosine and Autism Study, which includes a summary of Dr. Chezs
research study is available on The Autism Coach website at
For autistic children, Doctor Chez finds most beneficial a dosage
of 400 mg carnosine in combination with 50-IU Vitamin E and 5 mg zinc
twice a day. The zinc and Vitamin E are included because Dr. Chez
believes that the addition of small doses of zinc may augment
intracellular L-Carnosine activation, and vitamin E may enhance
antioxidant neuro-protective properties of L-Carnosine. In some
children, too high a dose may overstimulate some patient's frontal
lobes which can cause increased irritability, hyperactivity or
insomnia which was observed already in hyperactive autistic children.
Other than that, there were no side effects.
**Read entire article for the actual summary of Dr. Chezs clinical
trial, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study L-Carnosine
Supplementation in Children With Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
Also, read Carnosine, not Carnitine: First Fish, Now Red Meat and
Chicken?!! From a posting to the CHERAB Grouplist, by Lisa Geng at
which discusses Dr. Chezs work, and has supply links for ordering
I hope this additional information proves helpful!