5 Best Vitamins For Autism
Although vitamin and mineral deficiencies can occur for anyone, they are occasionally more common in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Oftentimes, these deficiencies arise from nutritional gaps that can form in the affected individual’s diet due to certain eating behaviors that present alongside ASD, including food refusal and very specific preferences when it comes to taste, color, texture, brands, and more.
One possible way to counteract or prevent nutrient deficiencies from occurring may be to incorporate a multivitamin. Multivitamins supply a healthy daily amount of essential nutrients that may be missing from a regular diet, especially one that is affected by certain food behaviors. However, there are tons of multivitamins available and some may be more suited for individuals with ASD than others according to their ingredients. In this article, we will outline 5 vitamins to look for in the best liquid multivitamin for autism: vitamins A, B1, B6, B12, and D.
Vitamin A, or retinol, is an essential vitamin with distinct antioxidant properties. Studies have found that nearly 80% of children with autism also have a vitamin A deficiency and that supplementing with vitamin A to counteract deficiency may improve ASD symptoms (1). Since vitamin A is particularly important for eye and vision health, it may have an impact on visual symptoms of ASD, such as issues with eye contact, squinting, visual self-stimulation, and trouble bringing objects into focus (2). For this reason, vitamin A has the potential to relieve the severity of some ASD symptoms in those who are also affected by a vitamin A deficiency.
Vitamin A is prevalent among various food groups, particularly fruits and vegetables. Some examples include tomatoes, mangos, cantaloupe, leafy green vegetables, red bell peppers, carrots, squash, milk, eggs, and beef liver (3). Multivitamins and fortified foods can also be an effective source of this important nutrient.
The first of the 8 B complex vitamins, vitamin B1, or thiamine, helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy. Studies have found that B1 treatments may have a positive effect on children with ASD, especially those who might be experiencing a thiamine deficiency (4). Some potential reasons for this improvement may involve thiamine’s effects on oxidative stress and the production of neurotransmitters, but more research is still needed to locate the exact connection between vitamin B1 and ASD (5).
Like many of the B vitamins, thiamine naturally occurs mainly in meat and fish, though it can also be found in whole grains and fortified foods. Some examples of B1 food sources include pork, sunflower seeds, beans, and yogurt (6).
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is another of the 8 B complex vitamins. Similar to vitamin B1, it plays a part in maintaining a healthy metabolism. Research suggests that vitamin B6, especially when accompanied by magnesium to help with absorption, may be able to improve ASD symptoms via its role in the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA (7). Supplementation with vitamin B6 and magnesium may help with ASD behaviors such as hyperactivity, restlessness, fidgeting, poor concentration, and noise sensitivity (8).
Vitamin B6 is largely found in animal products, particularly beef liver, poultry, and some fish like salmon and tuna. However, there are some plant sources as well, including bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, and dark leafy greens (9).
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is among the best autism supplements for speech. Supplementing with methyl B12 in particular has been shown to improve various forms of communication in individuals with ASD, including receptive, expressive, and written language (10). However, supplementation alone cannot magically improve all symptoms and should be utilized alongside speech therapy.
Unlike most vitamins, B12 is found almost exclusively in animal products such as beef, chicken, milk, eggs, and cheese, making it a bit harder to come by naturally, especially for individuals with very particular food habits. A multivitamin with B complex can be a great resource in this case. However, it is extremely important to speak with your physician before taking any form of supplements, as they can affect your body in ways you might not predict. Those with ASD or other pre-existing health conditions should use extra caution.
Vitamin D may be one of the best supplements to reduce stimming in individuals with ASD. Although stimming itself is not necessarily bad and can be helpful for coping with intense emotions or situations, some behaviors related to stimming may be harmful or dangerous. In these cases, finding ways to reduce these behaviors might be important for overall safety. A rather recent study found that supplementing children affected by autism with vitamin D3 every day over a 4 month period resulted in improvements for some ASD symptoms, including social interaction, communication, and the repetitive behaviors often associated with stimming (11).
Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced naturally by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight. For this reason, deficiency may be common in those who are unable to go outside frequently or who have increased sensitivity to sunlight. Some dairy products and cereals are fortified with vitamin D, but multivitamins are also a convenient and effective source of this important nutrient.
- Guo, Min et al. “Vitamin A Improves the Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Decreases 5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HT): A Pilot Study.” Brain Research Bulletin, March 2018, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29122693.
- “Vitamin A (VA).” Treat Autism, 30 September 2017, https://treatautism.ca/2017/09/30/vitamin-a-visual-processing-autism-treatment.
- “Vitamin A.” Harvard School of Public Health, 2022, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-a.
- Lonsdale, Derrick et al. “Treatment of Autism Spectrum Children With Thiamine Tetrahydrofurfuryl Disulfide: A Pilot Study.” Neuroendocrinology Letters, August 2002, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12195231.
- Khanh vinh quốc Lương & Lan Thi Hoàng Nguyễn. “The Role of Thiamine in Autism.” American Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience,10 September 2013, http://www.peirsoncenter.com/uploads/6/0/5/5/6055321/10.11648.j.ajpn.20130102.11.pdf.
- “Thiamin – Vitamin B1.” Harvard School of Public Health, 2022 https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-b1.
- “Vitamin B6.” Treat Autism, 2 October 2017, https://treatautism.ca/2017/10/02/vitamin-b6.
- Markham Integrative. “The Importance of Magnesium in Autism & ADHD.” Markham Integrative Medicine, 9 March 2017, https://integrative-medicine.ca/the-importance-of-magnesium-in-autism-adhd.
- “Vitamin B6.” Harvard School of Public Health, 2022, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-b6.
- Van Der Laan, Joya. “Supplements for Speech Delays in Autistic Children.” Your Autism Game Plan, 11 October 2021, https://yourautismgameplan.com/supplements-for-speech-delays-in-autistic-children.
- Saad, Khaled et al. “Randomized Controlled Trial of Vitamin D Supplementation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, January 2018, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27868194.