Folate (folic acid) is essential for brain development and language in children. Children with autism have difficulties in their bodies to transport folate to the brain. They have folate autoantibodies in the brain that block the action of this essential nutrient.
Also, ASD children may have brain folate deficiency but at the same time have normal blood levels of folate due to many reasons like autoantibodies against folic acid, inflammation, and mitochondrial problems.
New research has demonstrated that ASD children may not convert folic acid to the active form (L-methylfolate) in the body due to a genetic alteration (1). In other words, they may ingest folic acid from foods or supplements, but their body may not be able to use it properly due to the lack of conversion to the active form L-methyl folate.
What can we do about it?
*Supplementing with the active form of folic acid can be a good choice. Higher doses may be required.
*Continue a healthy anti-inflammatory diet with beneficial fats like omega-3, extra-virgin olive oil, flax, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and high-quality meat. An anti-inflammatory environment is required because inflammation may prevent folic acid from entering the brain.
*Prescription-only Folinic acid can be an excellent choice. It has demonstrated effectiveness in improving verbal communication, receptive and expressive language in children with autism (2).
There is Hope for Autism!
David Rivas, RPh, MSc, CCN
Pharmacist and Clinical Nutritionist
(1): Li, Y., Qiu, S., Shi, J., Guo, Y., Li, Z., Cheng, Y., & Liu, Y. (2020). Association between MTHFR C677T/A1298C and susceptibility to autism spectrum disorders: a meta-analysis. BMC Pediatrics, 20(1), 1-11.
(2): Frye, R. E., Rossignol, D., Scahill, L., McDougle, C. J., Huberman, H., & Quadros, E. V. (2020, June). Treatment of Folate Metabolism Abnormalities in Autism Spectrum Disorder. In Seminars in Pediatric Neurology (p. 100835). WB Saunders.