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Effect of Nutritional Support (General) on Autism
There is no doubt that it's important to get enough of all necessary nutrients. However, the process of determining proper daily intake levels for vitamins and minerals is far from an exact science and the recommendations issued by experts in various countries often disagree to a certain extent.
In general, while it is fairly easy to determine the minimum nutrient intakes that are necessary to avoid frank malnutrition, there's no straightforward way to determine optimum intake levels. Furthermore, individual needs undoubtedly vary based on numerous factors, including age, genetics, lifestyle, other foods in the diet, and many additional environmental influences; no schedule of official recommendations could possibly take all these factors into account, even if all the necessary data existed (which it doesn't).
Thus, all recommendations for daily nutrient intake must be regarded as approximate. The individual supplement articles in this encyclopedia summarize the current US recommendations.
Common Nutritional Deficiencies
Severe deficiencies of vitamins or minerals are rare in the developed world. However, evidence suggests that slight deficiencies in certain nutrients may be relatively common. These include calcium, chromium, folate, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin B12 (primarily in the elderly), vitamin D, vitamin E, and zinc. Many of these deficiencies can indeed be true for people with autism as well.
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Research Evidence on Nutritional Support (General)
One small study found that use of a multivitamin/multimineral supplement improved sleep and gastrointestinal problems in people with autistic spectrum disorder to a greater extent than placebo.18
Standard multivitamin/multimineral tablets contain nutrients at levels believed to be safe for the majority of healthy people, as indicated by amounts at or below the recommended daily allowance. However, even these supplements could be harmful for people with certain diseases, such as kidney or liver disease, or for people taking certain medications, such as warfarin .
There are other multivitamin/multimineral tablets that contain high levels of certain nutrients far above nutritional needs. These could conceivably present risks for healthy people, particularly if they are taken in combination with additional specific supplements. Almost any mineral can be toxic if taken to excess, and there are also risks with excessive intake of vitamins A, B 6 , and D.
One study found that use of multivitamin/mineral supplements may actually increasethe infectivity of women with HIV. 1 The reasons for this are unclear.
- McClelland RS, Baeten JM, Overbaugh J, Richardson BA, Mandaliya K, Emery S, Lavreys L, Ndinya-Achola JO, Bankson DD, Bwayo JJ, Kreiss JK. Micronutrient supplementation increases genital tract shedding of HIV-1 in women: results of a randomized trial. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 37(5):1657-63.
- Adams JB, Holloway C. Pilot study of a moderate dose multivitamin/mineral supplement for children with autistic spectrum disorder. J Altern Complement Med. 2005;10:1033-9.
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