Autism and Vitamin B12 deficiency

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I recently finished reading, Could It Be B12?: An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses. I highly recommend reading the entire book. To put children first, I want to highlight the connection discovered between vitamin B12 deficiency and autism.

A startling statement from the book (page 246), accredited to  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is that “for decades, the best estimate for the prevalence of autism was four to five per 10,000 children. More recent studies from multiple countries using current diagnostic criteria conducted with different methods have indicated that there is a range of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) prevalence between 1 in 500 children and 1 in 166 children.”

With this dramatic rise in the incidence of autism in children, it makes sense to me to start widespread screening of infants and children for vitamin B12 deficiency. According to Could It Be B12?: An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses, many vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms can mimic autistic behavior. The following are a few symptoms:

  • Developmental delay
  • Impaired fine and gross motor skills
  • Lower IQ
  • Speech and language delay and difficulties
  • Aloofness and withdrawal
  • Seizures
  • Failure to thrive
  • Brain atrophy on MRI
  • Apathy
  • Irritability
  • Tremor
  • Hypotonia/ “floppy muscle syndrome”

Besides autism-like symptoms like delayed speech and trouble socializing, there can be permanent neurological damage. If not caught in time, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause irreversible damage that affects cognitive abilities, and the ability to walk.

If you have a child with a diagnosis of autism, or if you are an adult with autism, I encourage you to ask your doctor about testing for a vitamin B12 deficiency. As outlined in Could It Be B12? An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses, the current parameters for adult serum (blood) levels of vitamin B12 do not catch people in “the gray zone” of between ~200 – 450 pg/mL. The authors state the blood level for children should be even higher– closer to 1,000 pg/mL. There are additional tests (methylmalonic acid/MMA and Homocysteine/ Hcy) which can be used to definitively diagnose a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Be Well & B12!

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5 thoughts on “Autism and Vitamin B12 deficiency

  1. The Person Next to You September 17, 2013 at 1:34 am Reply

    We use Methyl B-12 and DMG is our biomedical approach to treating Autism. It has made an incredible difference with my son.

    • thereseguise September 17, 2013 at 8:40 pm Reply

      So great to know. I know Methyl B-12 is methylcobalamin (vs cyanocobalamin or hydroxocobalamin). I’m not familiar with DMG. I’m so glad you found something that has such a positive impact with your son. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Maria Byrne October 15, 2017 at 10:19 pm Reply

    My son was diagnosed at three and a half years with severe Autism, he has pernicious anemia, I developed pernicious anemia in 1996 two years before he was born. But my vitamin b12 injections were stopped during my pregnancy? Why? Outraged!

    • thereseguise October 21, 2017 at 3:48 am Reply

      How was your and your son’s pernicious anemia diagnosed? Mine was diagnosed with a lab test for antibodies against intrinsic factor. If you have a true pernicious anemia, I believe the recommended treatment is still injectable Vitamin B12. There’s been some talk of an oral medication that would treat PA as well. I’m not up-to-date on what that is. Have you asked your doctor why the shots were stopped? Can you get a second opinion perhaps? Best of luck to you and your son.

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