Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is often deficient in autism. Treatment with therapeutic doses of vitamin A helps to improve visual symptoms in autism and improve gut health.
Vitamin A is essential for visual processing and when deficient results in many visual symptoms in autism. VA is also known as retinol, is best absorbed when given with a healthy fat or a meal high in healthy fats. The water soluble form is called beta carotene and is less active and many people have trouble converting beta carotenes to retinol. The gene or SNP that is responsible for converting VA into its active form is called BCOM1.
Recent research has shown that 80% of children with autism are vitamin A deficient. The same researchers showed that supplementing with VA improved symptoms of autism. VA deficiency correlates with autism severity. The lower a child’s VA status, the more impacted they are with symptoms.
Dr. Meg Megson’s Research
One of the more important papers with respect to visual motor planning in autism is the research of Meg Megson, MD. Many environmental toxins can damage G-alpha proteins in retinoid receptors in the brain. Damaged G-alpha proteins lead to impaired visual processing and many of the visual symptoms seen in autism including:
- Problems with eye contact
- Side glancing
- Looking at objects closely
- Spinning wheels or physically spinning around
- Looking out of the corners of their eyes
- “Lensing” in and out like a camera lens trying to bring things into focus
- Visual self-stimulating behaviours
- Flapping hands or wiggling fingers in front of their eyes
- Lining things up
- Grouping things together
- Covering eyes
- Seeming off in their own world
The natural cis-form of VA reconnects the G-alpha receptors to retinoid pathways in the hippocampus. This improves visual processing, sensory perception, expressive communication, social interaction and attention in autism. Many autistic individuals don’t have the visual motor planning to process “dynamic” or moving information. Many of the visual behaviours in autism are an attempt to help process visual information and repair visual processing. Natural cis-forms of VA are found in cod, salmon, and liver.
- Siegenthaler JA, Ashique AM, Zarbalis K, et al. Retinoic acid from the meninges regulates cortical neuron generation. Cell. 2009;139(3):597-609. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2009.10.004.
- Megson MN. Is autism a G-alpha protein defect reversible with natural vitamin A? Med Hypotheses. 2000 Jun;54(6):979-83.
- Gamliel M, Anderson KL, Ebstein RP, Yirmiya N, Mankuta D. The oxytocin-CD38-vitamin A axis in pregnant women involves both hypothalamic and placental regulation. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2016;29(16):2685-90. doi 10.3109/14767058.2015.1101446.
- Min Guo , Jiang Zhu , Ting Yang , Xi Lai , Yuxi Lei , Jie Chen , Tingyu Li . Vitamin A and vitamin D deficiencies exacerbate symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorders. Nutr Neurosci. 2019 Sep;22(9):637-647. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2017.1423268. Epub 2018 Jan 16.
- Min Guo , Jiang Zhu , Ting Yang , Xi Lai , Xiao Liu , Juan Liu , Jie Chen , Tingyu Li. Vitamin A improves the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders and decreases 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT): A pilot study. Brain Res Bull. 2018 Mar;137:35-40. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2017.11.001. Epub 2017 Nov 6.