Wednesday 17 August 2011

Pole position in autism research

Many research groups are at work in the autism research arena. I have blogged about a few of them over the past few months, and in some cases readily admit to being a bit of fan of some of their ideas and produce. One group has kinda crept up on my autism research radar with no or only little media publicity for their research findings, some of which actually might be quite important.

The group in question is a team based at the Technical University of Lodz in Poland (hence the 'Poles') and the author who keeps cropping up is Dr Joanna Kaluzna-Czaplinska (apologies for the lack of Latin characters in her name). I posted an entry about some research from this group recently and their interesting findings related to the big 'H' - homocysteine - which seems to also potentially tie into quite a few other areas.

A recent paper from this Polish group also piqued my interest; this one* looking at what happened to urinary levels of various dicarboxylic acids in children with autism in response to a supplementation regime which included magnesium and vitamins B6 (pyridoxine) and B2 (riboflavin). I should perhaps back up a little and explain what exactly dicarboxylic acids are and which ones were examined in this study. Dicarboxylic acids are organic acids which, chemically, have two carboxyl functional groups (hence the di-).

The paper describes results based on the application of gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to analyse for several dicarboxylic acids in urine including succinic, adipic and suberic acids. Some of these dicarboxylic acids are involved in things like the Krebs cycle among other things.

Anyhow, the results suggested that the supplementation protocol (listed in the paper) seemed to have had quite an effect on the quantities of the dicarboxylic acids measured; adjusting of course for our old friend urinary creatinine. This is not really startling news considering that elevated urinary levels of compounds such as succinic acid for example, might (might!) indicate a deficiency of vitamin B2 [or coenzyme Q10] among other things.

Some caution needs to be attached to these findings as they stand. There were only 30 participants included for study and no control group used. Having said that the main thrust of the paper seems to be about what happened to detected compound levels in children with autism following supplementation, so maybe I should not be so critical at this stage.

There are perhaps a few ways that this collected data can be interpreted. Elevated levels of such organic acids as markers of some kind of disorder of metabolism is perhaps one way. Another is the possibility that a proportion of people with an autism spectrum condition might actually be deficient in various vitamins and minerals and what is being seen are the knock-on effects of that. I stand back at this point preferring not to speculate which option might be most applicable, bearing in mind that metabolic disorders involving such parameters might show 'overlap' with some of the characteristics seen in autism.

* Kaluzna-Czaplinska J. et al. B vitamin supplementation reduces excretion or urinary dicarboxylic acids in autistic children. Nutrition Research. August 2011.


  1. when reading Dr. Bernie Rimland years ago, when my son, now 17, was age 3, there was much discussion of B6 and magnesium supplementation. seems to go over it pretty well.

    Dr. Rimland battled where no man feared to tread. Whether he was on to something or not, may be seen one day. He is a hero in America for changing the Bettleheim "refrigerator mother" theory popular in America in the 1960's. Later, he was seen to have succumbed to woo theories. Perhaps there is a bit of truth here.

    For all the fallderall considering his "DAN doctors"...there may be something to his speculations. Lord knows nobody else has come up with anything...

  2. Thanks for the comment. Agreed, the late Dr Rimland was a force for good when it came to bringing autism out of those dark times. The B6/magnesium story is a bumpy one which whilst not providing the 'universal' answer (as if there is ever going to be one) might still have some relevance to some people with autism albeit requiring a lot more study:


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