Although autism likely has more than a singular cause, it is possible that one nutrient deficiency or imbalance can have a significant impact on its development. Recent evidence suggests that carnitine – a relatively under-recognized nutrient among the general public – plays a bigger role in autism than previously thought.
Carnitine’s main function is to transport fatty acids into the cellular powerhouse (mitochondria) for energy. Low carnitine status (common in autism) can impair the ability to use fatty acids for learning and social development. This recent research hypothesizes that carnitine deficiency may cause symptoms of autism and goes on to suggest that up to 20% of autism cases may be preventable via appropriate supplementation. The author points out that a defect in carnitine biosynthesis is a risk factor for autism, citing the gene (SLC6A14) that limits carnitine utilization in the brain. Expressed only in males, this suggests the reason that autism is more prevalent in boys than in girls.
For additional information about the micronutrient impact on this this condition, download the Nutrients and Autism flyer here.
For more details on the cited paper, click here for a link to the abstract, “Brain carnitine deficiency causes nonsyndromic autism with an extreme male bias: a hypothesis,” published in the July 2017 issue of Bioassays.