In our practice, carnitine is one of the most important interventions for patients diagnosed with autism, speech delay, motor delays and chronic lyme disease. Carnitine plays a vital role in energy production by shuttling fats into the mitochondria where 90% of the body’s energy is produced. Carnitine is produced by the methylation cycle and transports fatty acids derived from omega 3 (DHA, EPA) and omega 6 (GLA) into the mitochondria.
Liver, kidney and brain cells produce carnitine from two protein building blocks; the amino acids lysine and methionine. Amino acids are critical to the functioning of every aspect of our biological processes. This becomes very important in the world of biomedical treatment of autism and other chronic disease such as lyme because adequate intake and metabolism of protein is essential. Optimal diet and digestive function is needed to extract both the amino acids via enzymatic breakdown; but also the co-factors needed to combine amino acids into different cells and tissues that “run” of body. Carnitine is produced with the help of the methylation cycle, so impairments here due to changes in gene function also has a critical impact on development. The Human Genome Project identified that human beings have 30,000 to 35,000 genes. There are many genes that impact methylation and some directly impact the production of carnitine.
The key to success in biomedical treatment is optimizing digestion and methylation, in order to produce essential products like carnitine. Carnitine is the molecule that shuttles fats into the mitochondria to make energy. Children diagnosed with autism have diets deficient in fat, enzyme deficiencies need to break down fats, carnitine shuttle impairment needed to supply the body’s energy factory with the materials needed to supply “fuel” to the entire body. The brain is the most metabolically active organ in the body. It is 1 ½ kg or 2 ½ lbs of fat that is required for language, learning, motor skills, integrating sensory information and social interaction.
Carnitine is uniquely sensitive to toxicity from toxicants like heavy metals, environmental pollutants and/or microbes and research in these areas shows that children diagnosed with autism have altered microbiome and metabolome which decreases the ability for the carnitine shuttle to function properly because of microbial by-products. Dr. Derrick MacFabe at the Kilee Patchell-Evans Autism Research Group (http://kpearg.com ) has shown in his “clostridia” model of autism that microbes can cause carnitine deficiency. In practice, we see thousands of patients in our clinic who have lower than optimal carnitine transport capabilities.
Research is showing that supplementing with carnitine improves language; social and cognitive skills in children diagnosed with autism and reduce behavioural concerns.