The use of food and/or food related products in both disease prevention and health promotion is an emerging trend that has given rise to the concept 'nutraceuticals'. Nutraceuticals is a term that was first coined in 1989 by the US Foundation for Innovation in Medicine (FIS). The FIS defined nutraceuticals as "any substance that is food or a part of food, and provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease" (Fern, 2012). General forms of nutraceuticals consist of dietary supplementation, including vitamin, mineral, amino acids and herbal substances in various compositions.
Since 1999, there have been several studies indicating the important role nutraceuticals can play in the management of Autism.
1999: Study of 35 participants diagnosed with Autism, all exhibting apraxia (inability to execute a set movement or speech) of speech and hand, showed significant
improvement in apraxia of the hand and general wellbeing with the use of 30 mg/kg/bw of L-carnitine (amino acid) over 8 months.
2004: 20 children aged 3 to 8 years old (18 boys and 2 girls) diagnosed with Autism, commenced using a multivitamin/mineral supplement to a maximum dose of 3ml/5Ib
body weight for 3 months. All childrenin this study showed significant improvements in sleep cycle and digestive function.
2007: 13 children, aged 5 to 17, using 1.5g/daily of Omega 3 Fatty Acid for six weeks, exhibited a significant reduction in hyperactivity behaviours and stereotypy (i.e.
repetitive or ritualistic movement).
2008: 34 children (30 boys, 4 girls) diagnosed with Autism, were administered L-carnitine at a dose of 50mg/kg/bw twice daily for 3 months. After 3 months children
showed significant improvements via assessment of Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist, Childhood Autism Rating Scale and Clinical Global Impression Scale.
2011: 141 participants diagnosed with Autism (aged 3 to 60) prescribed a multivitamin/mineral supplement, with a maximum dosage of 3ml/5IB used over 3 months lead
to a significant improvement in nonverbal communication skils, significant reduction in stereotypy and improved metabolic indicators i.e. nutrient status.
At present there are 16 randomised controlled trials being undertaken on the role nutraceuticals can play in the management of Autism. Studies include the role methyl B12 and pyridodoxal-5-phosphate can have on reducing stereotypy, hyperactive behaviours and cognitive processes.
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