Vitamin C and E are potent antioxidants that work together to fight against the destructive effects of free radicals within the body. Free radicals are “unstable oxygen molecule outlaws” that have the ability to literally pierce through the cell walls and oxidize (or destroy) brain cells.
Antioxidants, such as vitamin C and E, have the ability to neutralize free radicals without becoming a free radical themselves, since they are stable in either form. They act as scavengers within the body, helping to prevent a state of oxidative stress, which could then lead to cellular, and tissue damage and the progression of various disease states.
Brain cells are very vulnerable to oxidative stress, which means adequate supplies of both vitamins C and E are essential. Oxidative stress occurs when reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels exceed the antioxidant capacity of a cell. These ROS are highly toxic and react with lipids, proteins and nucleic acids, and lead to cell death. The brain is highly vulnerable to oxidative stress due to its limited antioxidant capacity, higher energy requirement, and higher amounts of lipids (particularly omega 3) and iron.
There has been an increasing amount of evidence which suggests the role of oxidative stress in the development and clinical manifestation of autism. In fact, oxidative stress has also been implicated in the pathogenesis of many other conditions, including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It is thought that autism may result from an interaction between genetic, environmental, and immunological factors, with oxidative stress as a mechanism linking these risk factors.
Vitamin C is the most abundant water-soluble antioxidant in the body; acting for both intra- and extra-cellular reactions. Vitamin C dependent enzymes are required for:
- Collagen synthesis – an important structural component of blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bone
- Carnitine synthesis – an inside-the-cell carrier of fatty acids needed for normal utilization of fats for energy
- Neurotransmitters synthesis – such as norepinephrine and 5-hydroxytryptophan, which are critical to brain function and are known to affect mood
- Tyrosine metabolism – helping to balance the phenylalanine-tyrosine-catecholamine system.
Vitamin C protects the body against the harmful effects of pollutants, enhances immunity and helps return vitamin E to its active form. It is also heavily involved in reactions with reduced iron and copper metallothionein enzymes. The body cannot manufacture vitamin C because we lack a required enzyme, so it must be taken in through food or supplements.
Vitamin E is the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant in the body and is one of the most efficient “chain-breaking antioxidants” available. The term vitamin E describes a family of eight antioxidants, four tocopherols (alpha – α, beta – β, gamma – γ, and delta – δ), and four tocotrienols (also α, β, γ and δ).
Vitamin E comes in one of two forms;
- natural vitamin E – a D isomer, or
- synthetic vitamin E – DL isomer
The bioavailability (i.e. rate and extent of absorption) and retention in the body of natural vitamin E is much better than the synthetic vitamin E.¹ If a supplement says D-L Tocopherol that means it contains only the synthetic version.
α-Tocopherol is the only form of vitamin E that is actively maintained in the human body and is therefore the form of vitamin E found in the largest quantities in the blood and tissue. Natural, food-source vitamin E is a mixture of tocopherols (i.e. mixed tocopherols).
As we discussed in one of our previous newsletters, at Kingsway we now use these mixed tocopherols in nearly all of our formulas and especially our Primers.
“D-α Tocopherol succinate is the most commonly used natural supplemental form of Vitamin E. Our mixed tocopherols are a combination of α, β, γ and δ tocopherols in various ratios. Since supplementation of D-α tocopherol on its own can reduce the levels of γ and δ tocopherols, it is becoming more common to use the mixed tocopherols to negate this effect.² As more and more research is being conducted on γ tocopherol, evidence is showing it has a unique difference to α tocopherol. The ability of γ tocopherol (unlike α tocopherol) to scavenge reactive nitrogen species that damage lipids, proteins and DNA and its potent anti-inflammatory properties (also δ Tocopherol) make mixed tocopherols a more appropriate form of vitamin E supplementation.³ ”
While we don’t have vitamin E deficiency in the ASD group as such, we do have oxidative stress. Vitamin E is an especially important antioxidant, offering cell membranes protection against oxidative damage.
Vitamin E also PROMOTES;
- Proper metabolism and reception of vitamin D and calcium
- Improves circulation
- Repairs tissues
- Lipid peroxidation, and
- Formation of free radicals
Some Dosage Recommendations:
Vitamin C → up to 1000mg or more/day, preferably in divided doses, since vitamin C does not stay around very long in the body. For ASD children weighing 23kgs (50Lbs) a dose of 250mg/d is usually suggested. For children 23 to 46kgs (50 to 100Lbs) a dose of 500mg/d or more (per practitioner direction) can be used. Usually, 500 to 1000mg/d is the absolute minimum that is adequate for ASD individuals weighing over 46kgs (100Lbs).
Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) → from 200 to 600mg/day according to the size of the child