N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), a nutrient well-known specifically for displaying strong antioxidant activity, has been advocated as a valuable asset for purposes related to detoxification along with a new study which suggests it may be effective in easing irritability and repetitive behaviors in children with autism–a disorder that has been displaying alarming increases.
The 12-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study involved 33 children, aged 3 to 12, and, reflective of the general characteristic of the disorder, predominantly male (31 of 33). All were diagnosed with an autistic disorder and Clinical Global Impressions-Severity (CGI-S) score of 4 or higher.
The children were randomly divided into experimental and placebo groups. The N-acetyl cysteine protocol involved a steady increase in dosage, consisting first of 900 mg of NAC administered daily for four weeks, followed by 900 mg twice daily for four weeks, followed by 900 mg taken three times daily for a final four weeks.
Follow-up data were available on 14 of the children in the NAC-receiving group and on 15 children in the placebo group. Compared with placebo, NAC treatment was associated with a significant decrease in irritability scores from 13.1 to 7.2 on the Aberrant Behavior Check List (or ABC) irritability subscale. Improvement was observed in week four and continued through weeks eight and 12, according to authors.
The change is not as large as that seen in children taking antipsychotics, according to lead investigator Antonio Hardan, MD, from Stanford University School of Medicine, in Palo Alto, California, “but this is still a potentially valuable tool to have before jumping on these big guns.”
These results lend some support to related observations involving dietary changes in autistic children, particularly so-called “elimination diets”, and collectively these studies serve to strengthen the association believed to exist between certain nutritional “pollutants” and the impaired cognitive function characteristic of autism. Additional research is required to help narrow the focus, but the study above not only reveals more about the causes of autism, but potentially one part of the solution.