Minerals and Autism

A reader forwarded some lab reports and ask for comments. The reader gracefully gave permission to share some data to aid in the discussion and that others may benefit.

One child’s hair analysis

Connection to Microbiome

The absence or surplus of minerals impact both bacteria growth and the metabolites produced by the bacteria. An example study from 45 years ago illustrates this.

The effect of low levels of strontium, boron, lithium, molybdenum, and fluorine, alone and in combination, on hydroxyapatite solubility, bacterial growth, and acid production in five antigenic types of Streptococcus mutans was investigated…. The results show that low levels of strontium and fluorine can significantly reduce…

Effect of trace elements on dissolution of hydroxyapatite by cariogenic streptococci 1975

Antibiotic use is known to almost completely inhibit excretion of mercury in rats due to alteration of gut flora. [2019]

“During a pilot experiment, we found that germ-free mice [mice specially bred to have no bacteria anywhere in their systems] were resistant to anemia,” says Shah, senior author on the paper. “The easiest explanation is that you’ve gotten rid of a trillion bacteria and they no longer need iron. But interestingly, we saw that the iron absorptive mechanisms were all highly upregulated in the absence of microbiota.”

Gut Microbiome Puts the Brakes on Iron Absorption [2020]

Mineral Abnormalities in Autism

The microbiome influences the absorption and elimination of minerals. The minerals impacts the microbiome. In short, the microbiome will bias the mineral mixture in favor of what it prefers (“biome-forming”). In some cases, the environment that a person lives in may also cause shifts in mineral contents (i.e. water high in some mineral, living in a polluted environment). DNA may come in as a further compounding factor. Let us see what is reported in the literature:

Eating Habits

Often parents will shift diet due to beliefs or due to a child preference/resistance.

  • Children with autistic disorder showed low dietary intake of some micronutrients; calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), selenium (Se) and sodium (Na), also they had significantly high intake of potassium (K) and vitamin C compared to healthy controls [2017]
  • Children with autism spectrum disorder consume less protein, calcium, selenium, vitamin D, thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin B12 and more polyunsaturated fat acid and vitamin E than controls. [2019]
  • These children consumed significantly fewer macronutrients compared with the children without ASD. In addition, the children with ASD had the highest rate of vitamin A deficiency,  [2016]
  • Relative to controls, ASD children consumed fewer number of food items, particularly fruits, vegetables, and proteins; had significantly lower daily intake of potassium, copper and folate. [2017]
  • ASD patients consumed in average more calories than controls (though with a high patient’s frequency above and below calorie range references), had a limited food repertoire, high prevalence of children with inadequate calcium, sodium, iron, vitamin B5, folate, and vitamin C intake. [2016]
  • Nutrients least likely to be consumed in recommended amounts were vitamin A, vitamin E, fiber, and calcium. Children with ASD were more likely to consume vitamin/mineral supplements than typically developing children. Compared with parents of typically developing children, parents of children with ASD were more likely to report that their children were picky eaters and resisted trying new foods [2008]
  • The results obtained showed that the intake of carbohydrates and slightly lower intakes of protein, fat, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, retinol, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, folic acid, and pantothenic acid were higher among children and adolescents with ASD than among those without ASD.  [2020]
  • Risk for specific inadequacies included vitamin D (97% of the sample), fiber (91%) vitamin E (83%), and calcium (71%). Children with five or more nutritional inadequacies (n=55) were more likely to make negative statements during meals (P<0.05). [2018]
  • However, high fibre intake was connected with a decreased α-diversity only in children with ASD. High carbohydrate and fibre intake influenced β-diversity, changing the abundance of Bacteroides and other genera, many of them members of the Clostidiaceae. Modulating food habits of ASD children can influence their gut microbiota composition. [2020]

Child food-resistance can be a challenge to normalizing food intake (which may result in symptom improvement because of it’s impact on the microbiome).

Hair Concentrations

The above chart used hair analysis. There is significant literature in this area:

  • By comparing hair concentration of autistic vs nonautistic children, elevated hair concentrations were noted for aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, antimony, nickel, lead, and vanadium. Hair levels of calcium, iron, iodine, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, and selenium were considered deficient. [2012]
  • . The mean Levels of mercury, lead, and aluminum in hair of the autistic patients were significantly higher than controls. Mercury, lead, and aluminum levels were positively correlated with maternal fish consumptions, living nearby gasoline stations, and the usage of aluminum pans, respectively. [2015]
  •  The children with autism had significantly (p<0.001) higher in-hair concentration levels of lead, mercury and uranium. There was no significant difference between the two groups in the other five toxic elements.[2005]
  • Mean Calcium level in the hair of the case group was lower than the mean level of this element in the control group. Mean Arsenic and Lead concentration in the hair of children with ASD was statistically significantly higher than the mean concentration of this element in the hair of children without neurological disorders. [2020]
  •  We have also identified factors associated with concentrations of Lead in blood of children with ASD or suspected of having ASD, including dietary factors. These factors include child’s sex, parental education, exhibiting pica, and eating watermelon, lamb, and cold breakfast such as cereal. [2019]
  • Children with autism had significantly (2.1-fold) higher levels of mercury but similar levels of lead and similar levels of zinc. Children with autism also had significantly higher usage of oral antibiotics during their first 12 mo of life, and possibly higher usage of oral antibiotics during their first 36 mo of life. [2007]
  • The significant elevation in the concentration of Copper, Lead, and Mercury and significant decrease in the concentration of Magnesium and Selenium observed in the hair and nail samples of autistic subjects could be well correlated with their degrees of severity. [2011]

Risks from Minerals

  •  our findings indicated that among children with the Ile/Ile genotype, those with blood manganese concentrations > 12 μg/L had about 4 times higher odds of ASD compared to those with blood manganese concentrations <12 μg/L. [2019]
  • In the autistic groups, decreased concentration of protein in both hair and nail samples was observed…..Lower protein content and higher percentage of nitration in hair and nail of autistic children correlated with their degrees of severity. [2011]
  •  Increasing hair Mercury concentrations significantly correlated with increased ASD severity [2012]
  • In this study, it is evident that levels of mercury and copper in hair are significantly associated with higher Childhood Autism Rating Scale scores. This was supported by Adams et al. [19] who found that severity of a child’s autism coincided with the levels of toxic metals excreted in their urine after treatment with metal removal therapy; the higher the levels of antimony and other metals excreted, the more severe was the child’s autism.[2011]


  • Treatments that could address redox metabolism abnormalities include methylcobalamin with and without folinic acid in open-label studies and vitamin C and N-acetyl-l-cysteine in DBPC studies. These studies have reported improved core and associated ASD symptoms with these treatments. [2014]
  • Dietary supplements, especially multivitamin/minerals, were used by 56% of children with ASD. The most common micronutrient deficits were not corrected (vitamin D, calcium, potassium, pantothenic acid, and choline) by supplements. Almost one-third of children remained deficient for vitamin D and up to 54% for calcium. Children receiving GFCF diets had similar micronutrient intake but were more likely to use supplements (78% vs 56%; P=0.01). Supplementation led to excess vitamin A, folate, and zinc intake across the sample, vitamin C, and copper among children aged 2 to 3 years, and manganese and copper for children aged 4 to 8 years. [2015]

Looking at the Results

Selenium (34Se), an antioxidant trace element, is an important regulator of brain function. These beneficial properties that Se possesses are attributed to its ability to be incorporated into selenoproteins as an amino acid. Several selenoproteins are expressed in the brain, in which some of them, e.g. glutathione peroxidases (GPxs), thioredoxin reductases (TrxRs) or selenoprotein P (SelP), are strongly involved in antioxidant defence and in maintaining intercellular reducing conditions. Since increased oxidative stress has been implicated in neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, epilepsy and others, a growing body of evidence suggests that Se depletion followed by decreased activity of Se-dependent enzymes may be important factors connected with those pathologies. 

Selenium in the Therapy of Neurological Diseases. Where is it Going? 2016

Bottom Line

While the following common is common with Autism, it does not apply to every child. Individual testing is strongly recommended.

  • High Levels of:
    • Aluminum,
    • Antimony,
    • Arsenic,
    • Cadmium,
    • Lead,
    • Mercury,
    • Nickel,
    • Vanadium
  • Low Levels of:
    • Boron,
    • Calcium,
    • Fluorine,
    • Iodine,
    • Iron,
    • Lithium,
    • Magnesium,
    • Manganese,
    • Molybdenum,
    • Selenium,
    • Strontium,
    • Zinc


From prior readings, I know that items like Vitamin D absorption can be greatly influence by the microbiome. People take recommended dosages (which works across a typical population) and there is no significant changes. One approach is to use mega dosages. Another is to encourage bacteria known to assist absorption. For vitamin D, we know that Bifidobacterium Longum, Lactobacillus Casei and Lactobacillus Reuteri plays a role. Our knowledge is still fragmentary.

We have information on the bacteria influenced by Iron, dietary protein and a few more.

For items like aluminum being high, we have the association with aluminum cookware from the literature. We should be wary of all canned drinks because the container is aluminum and the contents are usually acidic (acid is used to extract aluminum). This also applies to items in TetraPaks(5% aluminum) which may include milk, soups.

Tetra Pak partnership targets carton polymer recovery | plasticstoday.com

Bottle waters are often no better (and sometimes worst) than tap water (2019 Consumer Reports Article).

For items like Selenium, always having a few Brazil Nuts around should address this issue. Using crude sea salt provides fluoride and iodine. A hot bed-time drink made with Cocoa powder(NOT chocolate favoring) helps with magnesium and zinc. Vanadium can be a bit of a challenge to get some kids to eat radishes, unlike molybdenum that may be obtained from potatoes.

There was a number of B-vitamins reported deficient cited above. I often refer to the B-vitamins as the Beef-Vitamins. The low protein intake would be expected to result in low levels of these. My first goal would be to increase protein intake before supplementation.

My future research

This has gotten me interested in the minerals-bacteria interaction. An area that I expect sparse information. As I find information I will post here.

3 thoughts on “Minerals and Autism

    1. Low stomach acid is not reported in any of 54,000 studies published on Autism. Similarly, nothing on gut wall integrity. Given the huge number of studies…. it is unlikely statistically significant findings in these areas would not be published… thus, the assumption of these being non-factors for autism as a whole (may apply for a few individual cases)

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