Autism is a developmental disorder that is characterized by failure to relate to others, impairment in communication, intolerance of change, and repetitive and ritualistic behaviour. Some studies have shown that individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder also have comparatively lower glutathione levels than the average developing child — about 20 to 40% lower. Also, their levels of oxidized glutathione are higher.

In a study conducted by Genetic Consultants of Dallas in Texas, researchers Janet Kern, David Geier, James Adams, Carolyn Garver, Tapan Audhya and Mark Geier tested whether glutathione supplements would benefit transsulfuration metabolites in autistic children.

Studies have shown that children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder have irregularities in transsulfuration metabolites, which affects the production of glutathione. The researchers hope that by examining the effects of two commonly used supplements for autism, transdermal glutathione and oral glutathione,that their results would lead to a better comprehension of treatment in increasing glutathione levels.

Glutathione is a tripeptide that is made up of amino acids glycine, cysteine and glutamic acid. A few of its many functions is DNA and protein synthesis and repair, transport of amino acids, and enzyme regulation. Because of it’s antioxidant properties, glutathione can prevent peroxides and free radicals from damaging important cells, making it important for immune functioning.

The Effects of Glutathione Supplements on Transsulfuration Metabolites

For the experiment, the researchers used 26 children with autism and divided them into two groups. One group would receive transdermal glutathione while the other group would receive oral glutathione. The treatment lasted over a period of eight weeks.  The researchers monitored side-effects and levels of glutathione, oxidized glutathione, taurine, sulfate, and cysteine.

At the end of the trial, Kern, et al., found that the oral glutathione group exhibited significant increases in plasma reduced glutathione. Both treatment groups also demonstrated significant increases in levels of plasma sulfate, cysteine and taurine. Oxidized glutathione showed little change in the groups.

Based on these results, the researchers believe that both forms of glutathione supplements, oral and transdermal, can benefit children with autism by increasing transsulfuration metabolites. They suggest additional studies be done in order to investigate the potential of glutathione supplements for management of autism symptoms.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3628138/