By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 30 March 2012)
According to the University of Florida (n.d.) “…the antioxidant autism theory purports that the brain is under increased ‘oxidative stress’ and the use of antioxidants can help detoxify certain damaging molecules…The oxidative stress theory of autism is intriguing but currently unproven.”
GSH is an antioxidant that is critical to immune function. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals, which would otherwise have an adverse impact on the brain, gastrointestinal tract, and immune system. Glutathione deficiency symptoms include tremors, poor coordination and balance, twitching, and disorders of the mind and nervous system (Autism Canada Foundation, 2011). According to Dr. Gutman (2005), research has shown that children with autistic spectrum disorders tend to have lower GSH levels.
There have been a number of anecdotal reports in which doctors have noted neurological benefits in autistic subjects with GSH supplementation. Intravenous GSH has shown the greatest benefits; the oral form has been less effective and may trigger side effects such as irritability or hyperactivity (Jepson & Johnson, 2007).
GSH Supplementation for Autistic Children
Jepson and Johnson (2007) assert that although low GSH levels have been found in autistic children, there hasn’t been enough research conducted thus far to determine whether or not supplementing with GSH or its precursors will benefit autistic individuals. However, the authors note that doctors in the United States have been experimenting with IV, oral, and transdermal GSH supplementation for autistic patients. Improved neurological function has been noted in some cases, particularly with IV supplementation.
Dorfman (2009), Cofounder of Developmental Delay Resources, notes that methyl-B12 injections can increase GSH levels. Folinic acid, TMG, vitamin B6, selenium, and vitamin C are also important in the maintenance of healthy GSH levels. James et al. (2008) found that treatment with methylcobalamin and folinic acid, in particular, increased GSH concentrations in autistic children.
The Autism Canada Foundation states that: “The production of glutathione by the body can be boosted by taking supplemental N-acetylcysteine or L-cysteine plus L-methionine. Studies suggest this may be a better way of raising glutathione levels than taking glutathione itself.”
More Information on Autism Supplements
For more on the effectiveness of other supplements for treating autistic spectrum disorders, see the main Autism Supplements page. For a full list of articles on autism and Asperger’s syndrome, visit the main Autistic Spectrum Disorders page.
Always consult a qualified medical practitioner before taking supplements or giving them to your child. Many supplements are toxic at certain doses and may interact with some medications or create problems for people with certain medical conditions.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical consultation or care. Health concerns should be referred to a doctor.
- Autism Canada Foundation (2011). “Glutathione.” AutismCanada.org.
- Dorfman, K., MS. (23 February 2009). “Understanding glutathione.” DevDelay.org.
Gutman, J., MD. (2005). “Glutathione (GSH).” American HealthCare Foundation, AmericanHealthCareFoundation.org.
- James, S.J.; Melnyk, S.; Fuchs, G.; Reid, T.; Jernigan, S.; Pavliv, O.; Hubanks, A.; & Gaylor, D.W. (2008). “Efficacy of Methylcobalamin and Folinic Acid Treatment on Glutathione Redox Status in Children with Autism.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(1), pp. 425-430.
- Jepson, B., & Johnson, J. (2007). Changing the Course of Autism: A Scientific Approach for Parents and Physicians. First Sentient Publications.
- McGinnis, W.R., MD. (15 July 2005). “Oxidative Stress in Autism: What Parents Should Know.” ASA’s 36th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-16, 2005). ASA.Confex.com.
- University of Florida, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Genetics and Metabolism. (n.d.). “How Do Antioxidants Relate to the Problem of Autism?” Peds.UFL.edu.