Does B12 help with autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. While there is no cure for autism, various interventions and treatments can help support individuals on the spectrum. Recently, some have speculated that vitamin B12 may help relieve certain symptoms associated with ASD. But what does the research actually say?

In the opening paragraphs, it’s important to define what we’re talking about. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, speech and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. ASD includes autism as well as Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).

Additionally, vitamin B12 is one of the B-complex vitamins that is important for neurological function, DNA synthesis, and energy metabolism. It is naturally present in many animal-based foods. Deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to neurological issues.

With this background context established, we can now dive into the key questions around B12 and autism:

Does vitamin B12 deficiency occur more often in those with autism?

Some research suggests that individuals with ASD are more prone to vitamin B12 deficiency than the general population. One study found that vitamin B12 deficiency occurred in about a quarter of children evaluated who had an autism diagnosis.

However, the data is mixed. Other studies have found no difference in B12 status between children with and without autism. More research is still needed to determine if B12 deficiency is truly more prevalent among those on the autism spectrum.

What symptoms are associated with B12 deficiency in autism?

In cases where children with autism are deficient in vitamin B12, certain symptoms may present more often. These can include:

– Irritability
– Poor concentration and focus
– Fatigue
– Regression of developmental milestones
– Gastrointestinal issues like constipation

Again, more studies are needed to confirm the connection between B12 deficiency and these symptoms among individuals with ASD. But repleting vitamin B12 could potentially help alleviate problems in these areas when deficiency is present.

Can vitamin B12 supplements help treat autism symptoms?

This is the main question many parents of children with autism want answered. While vitamin B12 is important for neurological function, there is currently limited evidence that B12 supplements can actually improve core symptoms of ASD like difficulties with communication and social interaction.

However, a few small studies have shown some benefits:

– A pilot study in Egypt gave vitamin B12 injections to 30 children with autism aged 3-8 years for 3 months. The treatment group showed significant improvements in autism severity scores, social functioning, and reduced hyperactivity and irritability.

– Another small study in Somalia found that high-dose B12 supplements over 3 months improved total mean scores on autism rating scales in a group of 20 autistic children compared to placebo.

– A study in the U.S. among 45 children with autism found that methyl B12 shots over 8 weeks improved metabolic biomarkers like glutathione, though no behavioral assessments were done.

While these initial results show promise, larger, more rigorous placebo-controlled studies are needed before conclusions can be made about B12 for autism symptoms. Many experts warn parents against “megadosing” with supplements in the hopes of a cure. But repleting B12 levels may help in cases of deficiency. As always, work with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.

What are potential mechanisms behind how B12 could help autism?

Though more research is needed, there are some hypothetical mechanisms for how vitamin B12 supplementation might help certain cases of autism:

– **Improving metabolic function:** B12 plays a key role in metabolism. Autism has been associated with impaired methylation and transsulfuration metabolic pathways. B12 may help optimize these processes.

– **Supporting neurological development:** B12 is essential for neurological function. Autism involves differences in brain development and connectivity. B12 may aid neurodevelopment.

– **Reducing oxidative stress:** Autism is linked to higher oxidative stress which can cause damage. As an antioxidant, B12 may help counter the harmful effects of this excess oxidative stress.

– **Decreasing homocysteine:** Elevated homocysteine is a risk factor for autism. B12 helps convert homocysteine into methionine. Lowering homocysteine may improve symptoms.

More clinical trials are needed to investigate these proposed mechanisms in depth and determine if B12 supplementation can positively impact them. But the scientific rationale exists for how B12 could potentially help address some physiological factors related to autism.

Who may benefit from vitamin B12 supplementation?

While the overall evidence is still limited, certain individuals on the autism spectrum may be more likely to benefit from vitamin B12 supplementation:

– Those with a diagnosed B12 deficiency. Repleting deficient levels of B12 may help support metabolic function.

– Children who present with symptoms associated with B12 deficiency like regression, irritability, fatigue, and gastrointestinal issues. B12 may help alleviate these symptoms.

– Individuals with diets very restricted in animal-based foods which are high in B12. Supplementation may prevent deficiency.

– Those undergoing DNA methylation therapy. B12 helps contribute to the methylation process which is targeted by this therapy.

– Children with abnormal biomarkers like elevated homocysteine or oxidative stress markers. B12 may help improve these metabolic factors.

Again, work with a knowledgeable practitioner to determine if vitamin B12 supplementation makes sense as part of a comprehensive autism treatment plan.

What are food sources of vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is naturally present almost exclusively in animal-based foods:

– Beef liver: Contains over 1000% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) in a 3 ounce serving

– Atlantic salmon: Provides about 400% of the RDA in half a fillet

– Tuna: Canned light tuna packed in water has over 200% of the RDA per can

– Eggs: Large eggs contain about 10% of the RDA for B12

– Milk and yogurt: Provides about 20-40% of the RDA per cup

– Chicken breast: Contains about 3% of the RDA per breast

Those following plant-based diets without animal products will likely need to take a B12 supplement or eat B12-fortified foods to prevent deficiency. Talk to a dietitian about the best dietary sources of B12.

What are the recommended intake levels for vitamin B12?

The daily Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for vitamin B12 are:

– Infants 0-6 months: 0.4 mcg
– Infants 7-12 months: 0.5 mcg
– Children 1-3 years: 0.9 mcg
– Children 4-8 years: 1.2 mcg
– Children 9-13 years: 1.8 mcg
– Adolescents 14-18 years: 2.4 mcg
– Adults: 2.4 mcg
– Pregnant women: 2.6 mcg
– Breastfeeding women: 2.8 mcg

However, the optimal intake for those with autism has not been definitively established. Some alternative medicine providers use much higher doses in their treatment protocols. More research is needed to determine the ideal intake for different situations. Assess individual levels and needs working with a healthcare professional.

Are there risks or side effects to taking B12 supplements?

Vitamin B12 supplements are considered very safe, even at high doses. No Tolerable Upper Intake Level upper limit has been set.

However, a few side effects may occur in some individuals, including:

– Itching, rash or swelling after injection
– Anxiety/irritability
– Diarrhea
– Blood clots when combined with folic acid

Those with Leber’s disease, a rare genetic eye condition, should avoid vitamin B12 supplements except under medical supervision. High levels may exacerbate this disorder.

Patients with hypokalemia or low potassium should use B12 supplements with caution since they may deplete potassium further.

As always, consult a doctor before giving vitamin supplements to a child to help determine appropriate dosing and monitor for potential adverse effects.

What types and dosage forms of B12 are most effective?

Vitamin B12 is available in several different forms, including:

– **Cyanocobalamin:** This synthetic and inexpensive form is found in most supplements and fortified foods. It may be less bioavailable than the active forms below.

– **Methylcobalamin:** An active form of B12 used for cellular energy and neurological function. Requires no conversion in the body. Used in injections and sublingual supplements.

– **Adenosylcobalamin:** Another active form crucial for methylation. Often used alongside methylcobalamin for enhanced effect.

– **Hydroxocobalamin:** The naturally-occurring type of B12 found in food. Used for B12 deficiency injections. Converts to active forms in the body.

For autism treatment, methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin supplements or injections may offer the most potent effects. Hydroxocobalamin injections are also used.

The standard supplemental dosage for vitamin B12 is around 1000-5000 mcg daily. But some alternative medicine protocols for autism utilize up to 60,000 mcg injected once or twice weekly. As always, work closely with a qualified healthcare provider to determine appropriate usage.

What are other complementary autism treatments?

While the research on vitamin B12 for autism shows promise so far, it should not be viewed as a standalone “cure.” Instead, B12 supplementation may play a supportive role alongside other evidence-based treatments such as:

– **Early behavioral interventions:** Programs to build communication, social, cognitive, motor, and adaptive skills through applied behavior analysis. These structured interventions implemented intensively at a young age can have significant benefits.

– **Speech therapy:** Language pathologists work on improving verbal and nonverbal communication abilities. Goals include building vocabulary, using full sentences, improving articulation, learning sign language, using communication aids, and more.

– **Occupational therapy:** Helps develop adaptive life skills for everyday activities like getting dressed, playing, school work, hygiene, eating, and more. Works on sensory processing issues too.

– **Medications:** May be used to help manage associated symptoms like anxiety, ADHD, depression, irritability, and repetitive behaviors.

– **Dietary approaches:** Eliminating food intolerances, providing micronutrient supplementation, and correcting metabolic abnormalities may relieve GI and behavioral issues.

Work with a team of experienced professionals including doctors, therapists, educators, nutritionists, and psychologists to develop an integrative treatment plan tailored to the child’s needs.


While still an emerging area of research, vitamin B12 may offer promise as a safe, accessible supplement to potentially help relieve certain autism symptoms in some individuals. However, the current evidence base is limited, and families should approach purported “miracle cures” with appropriate caution.

B12 is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to autism therapies. Work closely with trusted healthcare providers before beginning any new supplement regimen for a child with autism. Larger scale, randomized controlled trials are still needed to definitively determine if vitamin B12 can benefit children on the spectrum, and if so, what dose and form is ideal.

In cases of diagnosed B12 deficiency or when symptoms suggestive of deficiency are present, vitamin B12 supplements or injections under medical supervision may be reasonable to trial. But other evidence-based behavioral, occupational, speech, and dietary therapies for ASD should not be overlooked or delayed in lieu of any single nutritional supplement.

With continued research, the role of vitamin B12 may become more clear in coming years. For now, families should view it as one potential supportive component of a comprehensive autism treatment plan, not as a cure-all. Work closely with your child’s medical team to make informed decisions.

Key Takeaways

– Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) involves challenges with communication, social skills, and restrictive/repetitive behaviors. There is no medical “cure”.

– Some research shows vitamin B12 deficiency may be more common in autism, but findings are mixed.

– In deficient children, B12 may help symptoms like irritability, poor focus, regression, and GI issues.

– Small studies show some autism symptom improvements with B12 supplements, but larger scale research is still needed.

– Potential mechanisms revolve around improving metabolic function, aiding neurodevelopment, decreasing oxidative stress, and lowering homocysteine.

– Food sources include animal products like salmon, eggs, dairy, and beef. Vegans/vegetarians likely need supplementation.

– Supplements, shots, or fortified foods may be recommended for those with restricted diets, elevated homocysteine, or symptoms of deficiency.

– Work closely with healthcare providers before giving a child any new supplement like B12. It should complement other evidence-based autism therapies.

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