Autism and Carnosine Study

There is a Potential Breakthrough in Studies for Autism.

Eight-year-old Jonathan Sieger is autistic. Jane McDonald, 6, has developmental disorders. Drugs and therapies help their conditions, but they are both showing even more improvement recently by taking a supplement found in health food stores.

"I was shocked that we saw so much improvement early on after using it," said Jane's mother, Diane Curtis. Jonathan's mother expressed similar satisfaction with her son's improvement. "He's just so much happier. That was our first immediate notice," Maureen Sieger said. Jonathan and Jane have been taking a synthetic version of a natural protein called l-carnosine. Their pediatric neurologist, Dr. Michael Chez of Lake Bluff, Ill., has recently completed the first study of the substance. "It affected language, receptive language, eye contact, communication, all of which are things which children with autism have big gaps with," Chez said.

Over an eight-week period, Chez's study showed that carnosine improved behavior and communication by 16 percent. Social interaction improved by 27 percent and, in just four weeks, parents reported an overall improvement that more than doubled through the length of the study. Mo re and more research shows that the frontal lobes and the temporal lobes in the brain control emotion, epileptic activity, cognitive, expressive speech, and abstract thinking. C hez said I-carnosine apparently works in the front part of the brain. So far, he said he's used it on about 1,000 children, with a 90 percent success rate. According to Dr. Chez, children in his study improved in receptive language, auditory processing, socialization, awareness of surroundings, fine motor planning and expressive language. Responses to supplementation were seen 1 to 8 weeks into supplementation.

On some children, the change has been dramatic. "He runs into gym class. He wants to play tag. He wants to play with the other children and he's really happy to be at school for the first time," Maureen Sieger said.

For autistic children, Doctor Chez finds most beneficial a dosage of 400 mg carnosine in combination with 50-IU Vitamin E and 5 mg zinc twice a day. The zinc and Vitamin E are included because Dr. Chez believes that the addition of small doses of zinc may augment intracellular L-Carnosine activation, and vitamin E may enhance antioxidant neuro-protective properties of L-Carnosine. In some children, too high a dose may overstimulate some patient's frontal lobes which can cause increased irritability, hyperactivity or insomnia which was observed already in hyperactive autistic children.

Other than that, there were no side effects. Children with other disorders such as epilepsy, central processing disorder, or brain injury dosages from 200 to 3000 mg per day based upon Dr. Chez's evaluation. More studies will be needed to confirm the results of Chez's study.

A Summary of Dr. Chez's Study is as Follows:

Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of L-Carnosine Supplementation in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Michael G. Chez, M.D., Cathleen P. Buchanan, Ph.D.,
Jamie L. Komen, M.A., Marina Becker, R.N.

Objective: L-Carnosine is an amino acid dipeptide that may enhance frontal lobe function. We therefore sought to investigate whether L-Carnosine supplementation for children with Autistic Spectrum Dis orders (ASD) results in observable, objective changes in language and/or behavior in contrast to placebo.

Design/Methods: Thirty-one children (21 M, mean age= 7.45; range = 3.2-12.5 yrs )meeting inclusion criteria were enrolled in an 8 week blinded trial of either 400 mg BID powdered L-Carnosine or placebo. Children were assessed at a pediatric neurology clinic with the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS), the Expressive and Receptive One-Word Picture Vocabulary tests (E/ROWPVT), and biweekly parental Clinical Global Impression of Change (CGI), at baseline and 8 week endpoint.

Results: Children who were on placebo (n=17) did not show statistically significant changes on any of the outcome measures. After 8 weeks on L-Carnosine, children (n=14) showed statistically significant improvements on the GARS total score, GARS Behavior, Socialization, and Communication subscales, and the ROWPVT (all p's<.05). EOWPVT and CARS showed trends in improvements, which were supported by parental CGI.

Conclusions: Oral supplementation with L-Carnosine resulted in demonstrable improvements in autistic behaviors as well as increases in language comprehension that reached statistical significance. Although the mechanism of action of the amino acid is not well understood, it is believed that it acts to modulate neurotransmission and affect metal ion transfer of zinc and copper in the entorhinal cortex. This may enhance neurological function or act in a neuroprotective fashion.