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Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published on April 16th, 2019 by Dr. Meghan Haggarty

April is World Autism Awareness Month.

One of the goals of a naturopathic biomedical approach to treating autism is to identify underlying conditions common in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. One of these conditions is mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondria are cells within each cell of the body that are primarily responsible for producing ATP, a source of energy.  The brain is one organ that is rich in mitochondria.

Autism is linked with markers of mitochondrial dysfunction including carnitine deficiency, elevated lactic acid, and elevated urine organic acids associated with mitochondrial abnormalities. Mitochondria are also susceptible to oxidative stress, which is also commonly elevated in Autism patients. Clinically mitochondrial dysfunction may present as difficulty latching or gross motor delays.

Targeting mitochondria is an avenue of growing importance to treating underlying causes of Autism. Although it is not yet clear as to the exact cause of the mitochondrial abnormalities, supporting mitochondria function in affected patients may reduce symptoms of Autism.

Naturopathic Support

Naturopathic support for mitochondria includes the use of antioxidants and supplements such as:

  • Glutathione
  • B12
  • Carnitine
  • Riboflavin
  • CoQ10

Mitochondrial Abnormalities Research

Below are two studies that discuss mitochondrial abnormalities in Autism Spectrum Disorder in depth.

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