Researchers have found a link between vitamin B12 and people with autism and schizophrenia. A new study found that levels of the vitamin in the brain are lower in people with these conditions. The findings are cool because they analyzed vitamin levels in the brain, rather than in the blood, where measurements are often taken. This could help explain why individuals suffering from the disorders are affected by neuropsychiatric and neurological symptoms, according to the study’s lead author, Richard Deth, Ph.D in Tech Times. Deth, now retired, was a professor of pharmacology at Northeastern University and is on the scientific advisory board of the National Autism Association.
For the study, Deth and his team analyzed tissues from deceased but healthy donors and those from patients with autism or schizophrenia and compared the samples. Children with autism under age 10 were found to have brain B12 levels three times lower than what other children from the same age group have. Vitamin B12 naturally decreases with age, the autistic children’s levels resembled those of healthy adults in their 50s. The research was published in the journal PLOS One.
How does the vitamin play into autism and schizophrenia? It might be B12’s effect on oxidative stress, a key factor in aging and in in autism and schizophrenia. The study’s results point to a need for further research to see if using supplements and antioxidants may help prevent oxidative stress from developing. A previous study found that vitamin B12, plus folate, can improve the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.