Methyl B12 and Autism
Recently I’ve had several patients enquiring about methylB12 therapy for their children. It’s so important in autism that I thought I’d write a little about it to help explain it’s role in autism……
A recent study (Zhang et al, 2015) showed that children with autism had three times lower levels of vitamin B12 in their brains than their ‘neurotypical’ counterparts. This study is simply the latest one of many showing the importance of B12 and specifically methylB12 in helping people with autism reach their full potential.
What is B12?
B12 is a vitamin – it comes in five different forms and each form does different things in our bodies. Only methyl-B12 has been shown to directly activate the methionine/ homocysteine biochemical pathway. By activating this pathway we add more ‘fuel’ to the brain.
B12 works in conjunction with folic acid to make every cell in our body…. that’s pretty impressive!! It is vital for healthy methylation.
It also helps helps make red blood cells, maintain the myelin sheaths surrounding every nerve in our bodies and we need it to metabolise fats and amino acids. Clearly it’s important.
What is methylation?
Methylation is the process of adding our genetic material to each cell in our body. Dr Jill James has shown that children with autism have an increased incidence of methylation defects compared to their ‘neurotypical’ peers. She has also shown that they have up to 80% less glutathione in their cells. Supporting methylation in children with autism can help improve language, social and cognitive gains.
Dietary Sources of B12
Meat, fish and dairy products.
Are there any negative effects to giving your child Methyl B12?
Unfortunately yes. The silver lining to this is that the initial side effects are often a pointer of future treatment success. They are usually transitory and settle as treatment progresses. Side effects can include: hyperness, increased stimming, sleep disturbance, increased mouthing of objects, and aggression.
How long will my child need Methyl B12?
Methyl B12 is a long-term treatment. Benefits can be seen within the first six weeks of treatment but continued benefits can be experienced over months and years.
How do I take B12?
The most effective way to take B12 is as an injection (usually given into the bum). It can be taken as a tablet but more benefits are reported from subcutaneous administration. This is because when taken in tablet form it can be poorly absorbed through the gut wall. All forms of B12 are absorbed in the last portion of the small intestine – the terminal ileum. Dr Krigsman has shown that this area of the bowel is commonly affected by inflammation in individuals with autism. This inflammation impairs absorption of B12. By giving methyl B12 subcutaneously it bypasses the gut wall. For some parents who aren’t comfortable giving an injection you can also trial taking it as an oral spray to help improve absorption. It is injected using an insulin syringe (which has a very fine needle), most parents give it at night when the child is asleep and most report that bit doesn’t cause the child to wake.
So clearly this is an important treatment option to consider for your child.
James, S.J., Cutler, P., Melnyk, S., Jernigan, S., Janak, L., Gaylor, D.W. and Neubrander, J.A., 2004. Metabolic biomarkers of increased oxidative stress and impaired methylation capacity in children with autism. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 80(6), pp.1611-1617.
James SJ, Melnyk S, Fuchs G, Reid T, Jernigan S, Pavliv O et al. Efficacy of methylcobalamin and folinic acid treatment on glutathione redox status in children with autism. Am J Clin Nutr 2009; 89: 425–430.
James SJ, Melnyk S, Jernigan S, Cleves MA, Halsted CH, Wong DH et al. Metabolic endophenotype and related genotypes are associated with oxidative stress in children with autism. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet 2006; 141B: 947–956.
Krigsman, A., Boris, M., Goldblatt, A. and Stott, C., 2010. Clinical presentation and histologic findings at ileocolonoscopy in children with autistic spectrum disorder and chronic gastrointestinal symptoms. Autism Insights, 2, p.1.
Rose, S., Melnyk, S., Pavliv, O., Bai, S., Nick, T.G., Frye, R.E. and James, S.J., 2012. Evidence of oxidative damage and inflammation associated with low glutathione redox status in the autism brain. Translational Psychiatry, 2(7), p.e134.
Zhang, Y., Hodgson, N.W., Trivedi, M.S., Abdolmaleky, H.M., Fournier, M., Cuenod, M., Do, K.Q. and Deth, R.C., 2015. Decreased Brain Levels of Vitamin B12 in Aging, Autism and Schizophrenia. PloS one, 11(1), pp.e0146797-e0146797.