Showing posts with label Flavonoid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Flavonoid. Show all posts

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Immune modulatory treatments for autism spectrum disorder

Need a wizard, or your local doctor?

I was intrigued to come across a recent paper on immune modulatory treatments for autism by a couple of doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.  The lead author has interests in:

·      Autism spectrum disorders
·      Psychopharmacology
·      Developmental Disabilities
·      Williams syndrome
·      Angelman syndrome
·      Down syndrome

Apparently, he is an internationally-recognized expert in the neurobiology and neuropsychopharmacology of childhood-onset neuropsychiatric disorders including autistic disorder.  Sounds promising, hopefully we will learn something new.

The paper is actually a review of existing drugs, with immunomodulatory properties, that have already been suggested to be repurposed for autism. The abstract was not very insightful, so I have highlighted the final conclusions and listed the drugs, by category, that they thought should be investigated further.

All the drugs have already been covered in this blog and have already been researched in autism.

One important point raised in the conclusion relates to when the drugs are used.  Autism is a progressive condition early in life and there are so-called “critical periods” when the developing brain is highly vulnerable.

For example, Pentoxifylline has been found to be most effective in very young children.  This does not mean do not give it to a teenager with autism, it just means the sooner you treat autism the better the result will be.  This is entirely logical.

Some very clever drugs clearly do not work if given too late, for example Rapamycin analogs used in people with TSC-type autism.

Multiple Critical Periods for Rapamycin Treatment to Correct Structural Defects in Tsc-1-Suppressed Brain

Importantly, each of these developmental abnormalities that are caused by enhanced mTOR pathway has a specific window of opportunity to respond to rapamycin. Namely, dyslamination must be corrected during neurogenesis, and postnatal rapamycin treatment will not correct the cortical malformation. Similarly, exuberant branching of basal dendrites is rectifiable only during the first 2 weeks postnatally while an increase in spine density responds to rapamycin treatment thereafter.  

Back to today’s paper.

The identification of immune dysregulation in at least a subtype ASD has led to the hypothesis that immune modulatory treatments may be effective in treating the core and associated symptoms of ASD. In this article, we discussed how currently FDA-approved medications for ASD have immune modulatory properties.

“Risperidone also inhibited the expression of inflammatory signaling proteins, myelin basic protein isoform 3 (MBP1) and mitogen-activated kinase 1 (MAPK1), in a rat model of MIA. Similarly, aripiprazole has been demonstrated to inhibit expression of IL-6 and TNF-α in cultured primary human peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy adult donors.”

We then described emerging treatments for ASD which have been repurposed from nonpsychiatric fields of medicine including metabolic disease, infectious disease, gastroenterology, neurology, and regenerative medicine, all with immune modulatory potential. Although immune modulatory treatments are not currently the standard of care for ASD, remain experimental, and require further research to demonstrate clear safety, tolerability, and efficacy, the early positive results described above warrant further research in the context of IRB-approved clinical trials. Future research is needed to determine whether immune modulatory treatments will affect underlying pathophysiological processes affecting both the behavioral symptoms and the common immune-mediated medical co-morbidities of ASD. Identification of neuroimaging or inflammatory biomarkers that respond to immune modulatory treatment and correlate with treatment response would further support the hypothesis of an immune-mediated subtype of ASD and aid in measuring response to immune modulatory treatments. In addition, it will be important to determine if particular immune modulating treatments are best tolerated and most effective when administered at specific developmental time points across the lifespan of individuals with ASD.

Here are the drugs they listed:-

1.     Metabolic disease


Spironolactone is a cheap potassium sparing diuretic. It has secondary effects that include reducing the level of male hormones and some inflammatory cytokines.

Pioglitazone is drug for type 2 diabetes that improves insulin sensitivity.  It reduces certain inflammatory cytokines making it both an autism therapy and indeed a suggested Covid-19 therapy.

Pentoxifylline is a non-selective phosphodiesterase (PDEinhibitor, used to treat muscle pain.  PDE inhibitors are very interesting drugs with a great therapeutic potential for the treatment of immune-mediated and inflammatory diseases.  Roflumilast and Ibudilast are PDE4 inhibitors that also may improve some autism.  The limiting side effect can be nausea/vomiting, which can happen with non-selective PDE4 inhibitors.

I did try Spironolactone once; it did not seem to have any effect.  It is a good match for bumetanide because it increases potassium levels.

I do think that Pioglitazone has a helpful effect and there will be another post on that.

PDE inhibitors are used by readers of this blog. Maja is a fan of Pentoxifylline, without any side effects. Roflumilast at a low dose is supposed to raise IQ, but still makes some people want to vomit. The Japanese drug Ibudilast works for some, but nausea is listed as a possible side effect.

2.     Infectious disease


Minocycline is an antibiotic that crosses in to the brain.  It is known to stabilize activated microglia, the brain’s immune cells.  It is also known that tetracycline antibiotics are immunomodulatory.

Vancomycin is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections, if taken orally it does not go beyond the gut.  It will reduce the level of certain harmful bacteria including Clostridium difficile.

Suramin is an anti-parasite drug that Dr Naviaux is repurposing for autism, based on his theory of cell danger response.

3.     Neurology

Valproic acid

Valproic acid is an anti-epileptic drug.  It also has immunomodulatory and HDAC effects, these effects can both cause autism when taken by a pregnant mother and also improve autism in some people.

Valproic acid can have side effects. Low dose valproic acid seems to work for some people. 

4.     Gastroenterology

Fecal microbiota transplant (FMT)

FMT is currently used to treat recurrent Clostridium difficile infection and may also be of benefit for other GI conditions including IBD, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and functional GI disorders.

Altered gut bacteria (dysbiosis) is a feature of some autism which then impairs brain function.  Reversing the dysbiosis with FMT improves brain function.  

5.     Oncology

Lenalidomide is an expensive anti-cancer drug that also has immunomodulatory effects.

Romidepsin is a potent HDAC inhibitor, making it a useful cancer therapy.  HDAC inhibitors are potential autism drugs, but only if given early enough not to miss the critical periods of brain development. 

6.     Pulmonology


Many people with autism respond well to NAC. You do need a lot of it, because it has a short half-life.

7.     Nutritional medicine and dietary supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids
Vitamin D

Nutritional supplements can get very expensive.  In hot climates, like Egypt, some dark skinned people cover up and then lack vitamin D.  A lack of vitamin D will make autism worse.

Some people with mild brain disorders do seem to benefit from some omega-3 therapies.

Flavonoids are very good for general health, but seem to lack potency for treating brain disorders.  Quercetin and luteolin do have some benefits. 

8.     Rheumatology

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG)

Celecoxib is a common NSAID that is particularly well tolerated (it affects COX-2 and only marginally COX-1, hence its reduced GI side effects).

NSAIDS are used by many people with autism.

Steroids do improve some people’s autism, but are unsuitable for long term use.  A short course of steroids reduces Covid-19 deaths – a very cost effective therapy.

IVIG is extremely expensive, but it does provide a benefit in some cases. IVIG is used quite often to treat autism in the US, but rarely elsewhere other than for PANS/PANDAS that might occur with autism.

9.     Regenerative medicine

Stem cell therapy

I was surprised they gave stem cell therapy a mention. I think it is still early days for stem cell therapy.


I have observed the ongoing Covid-19 situation with interest and in particular what use has been made of the scientific literature.

There are all sorts of interesting snippets of data. You do not want to be deficient in Zinc or vitamin D, having high cholesterol will make it easier for the virus to enter your cells.  Potassium levels may plummet and blood becomes sticky, so may form dangerous clots. A long list of drugs may be at least partially effective, meaning they speed up recovery and reduce death rates. Polytherapy, meaning taking multiple drugs, is likely to be the best choice for Covid-19.

Potential side effects of some drugs have been grossly exaggerated, as with drugs repurposed for autism.  Even in published research, people cheat and falsify the data. In the case of hydroxychloroquine, the falsified papers were quickly retracted.

The media twist the facts, to suit their narrative, as with autism.  This happens even with Covid-19. Anti-Trump media (CNN, BBC etc) is automatically anti-hydroxychloroquine, and ignores all the published research and the results achieved in countries that widely use it (small countries like China and India). 

Shutting down entire economies when only 5-10% of the population have been infected and hopefully got some immunity, does not look so smart if you are then going to reopen and let young people loose.  They will inevitably catch the virus and then infect everyone else. Permanent lockdown restrictions, if followed by everyone, until a vaccine which everyone actually agreed to take, makes sense and living with the virus makes sense, but anything in between is not going to work. After 3 months without any broad lockdown, and allowing young people to socialize, most people would have had the virus and then those people choosing to shield could safely reemerge. The death rate with the current optimal, inexpensive treatment, as used in India or South Africa is very low, in people who are not frail to start with. Time to make a choice.  Poor people in poor countries cannot afford to keep going into lockdown, they need to eat.

What hope is there for treating a highly heterogeneous condition like autism, if it is not approached entirely rationally and without preconceptions and preconditions?  In a pandemic we see that science does not drive policy and translating science into therapy is highly variable.  The science is there for those who choose to read it.

I frequently see comments from parents who have seen some of the research showing that autism has an inflammatory/auto-immune component.  They ask why this has not been followed up on in the research.  It has been followed up on.  It just has not been acted upon.

Why has it not been acted on?

This missing stage is called “translation”.  Why don’t doctors translate scientific findings into therapy for their patients?

What is common sense to some, is “experimental” to others. “Experimental” is frowned upon in modern medicine, but innovation requires experimentation.

Many people’s severe autism is unique and experimental polytherapy/polypharmacy is their only hope.

The cookie cutter approach is not going to work for autism. 

Thankfully, for many common diseases the cookie cutter approach works just fine.

Do the authors of today’s paper, Dr McDougle and Dr Thom, actually prescribe to their young patients many of the drugs that they have written about?  I doubt it and therein lies the problem.  

Time for that wizard, perhaps? 

A few years ago I did add the following tag line, under the big Epiphany at the top of the page. 

An Alternative Reality for Classic Autism - Based on Today's Science

You can choose a different Autism reality, if you do not like your current one.  I am glad I did. I didn't even need a wizard.  

There are many immuno-modulatory therapies for autism that the Massachusetts doctor duo did not mention, but it is good that they made a start.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Inflammation Leading to Cognitive Dysfunction

Today’s post highlights a paper with some very concise insights into how microglial cells become “activated” resulting in the “exaggerated inflammatory response” that many people with autism experience on a daily basis.  

This is very relevant to treatment, which is not usually the objective of much autism research.

I recall reading a comment from John’s Hopkins about neuroinflammation/activated microglia in autism; they commented that no known therapy currently exists and that, of course, common NSAIDs like ibuprofen will not be effective.  But NSAIDs are effective.

As we see in today’s paper, there a least 4 indirect cytokine-dependent pathways leading to the microglia, plus one direct one.
NSAIDs most definitely can reduce cytokine signaling and thus, indirectly, reduce microglial activation.

The ideal therapy would act directly at the microglia, and as Johns Hopkins pointed out, that does not yet exist with today's drugs.  If you read the research on various natural flavonoids you will see that “in vitro” there are known substances with anti-neuroinflammatory effects on microglial activation.  The recurring “problem” with such substances is low bioavailability and inability to cross the blood brain barrier.

Back to Today’s Paper

It was a conference paper at the 114th Abbott Nutrition Research Conference - Cognition and Nutrition

The paper is not about autism, it is about more general cognitive dysfunction.  It is from mainstream science (I checked).

It explains how inflammation anywhere in the body can be translated across the BBB (Blood Brain Barrier) to activate the microglia.  This of course allows you to think of ways to counter these mechanisms.

It also raises the issue of whether or not anti-inflammatory agents really need to cross the BBB.  While you might think that ability to cross the BBB is a perquisite to mitigate the activated microglia, this may not be the case.  Much can be achieved outside the BBB, and we should not rule out substances that cannot cross the BBB.

Very many known anti-inflammatory substances do not cross the BBB.   


extracts from the above paper ...

Example – Influenza and Cognition

Neurological and cognitive effects associated with influenza infection have been reported throughout history.

The simplest explanation for these neurocognitive effects is that influenza virus makes its way to the brain, where it is detected by neurons.

However, most influenza strains, including those responsible for pandemics, are considered non-neurotropic, neurological symptoms associated with influenza infection are not a result of direct viral invasion into the CNS.

Moreover, neurons do not have receptors to detect viruses (or other pathogens) directly.

Cells of the immune system do, however, as the immune system’s primary responsibility is to recognize infectious pathogens and contend with them. For example, sentinel immune cells such as monocytes and macrophages are equipped with toll-like receptors (TLR) that recognize unique molecules associated with groups of pathogens (i.e., pathogen-associated molecular patterns). Stimulation of TLRs that recognize viruses (TLR3 and TLR7) and bacteria (TLR4) on immune sentinel cells can have profound neurological and cognitive effects, suggesting the immune system conveys a message to the brain after detecting an infectious agent. This message is cytokine based.

Macrophages and monocytes produce inflammatory cytokines (e.g., interleukin [IL]-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor-α [TNF-α]) that facilitate communication between the periphery and brain.

Cytokine-dependent Pathways to the Brain

Several cytokine-dependent pathways that enable the peripheral immune system to transcend the blood-brain barrier have been dissected.

Inflammatory cytokines present in blood can be actively transported into the brain.
But there are also four indirect pathways:-

1.     Cytokines produced in the periphery need not enter the brain to elicit neurocognitive changes. This is because inflammatory stimuli in the periphery can induce microglial cells to produce a similar repertoire of inflammatory cytokines. Thus, brain microglia recapitulates the message from the peripheral immune system.

2.     in a second pathway, inflammatory cytokines in the periphery can bind receptors on blood-brain barrier endothelial cells and induce perivascular microglia or macrophages to express cytokines that are released into the brain

3.     In a third pathway, cytokines in the periphery convey a message to the brain via the vagus nerve. After immune challenge, dendritic cells and macrophages that are closely associated with the abdominal vagus have been shown to express IL-1β protein; IL-1 binding sites have been identified in several regions of the vagus as well. When activated by cytokines, the vagus can activate specific neural pathways that are involved in neurocognitive behavior. However, activation of the vagus also stimulates microglia in the brain to produce cytokines via the central adrenergic system 

4.     A fourth pathway provides a slower immune-to-brain signaling mechanism based on volume transmission.  In this method of immune-to-brain communication, production of IL-1β by the brain first occurs in the choroid plexus and circumventricular organs—brain areas devoid of an intact blood-brain barrier. The cytokines then slowly diffuse throughout the brain by volume transmission, along the way activating microglia, neurons, and neural pathways that induce sickness behavior and inhibit cognition.

Can Flavonoids Reduce Neuroinflammation and Inhibit Cognitive Aging?

Flavonoids are naturally occurring polyphenolic compounds present in plants. The major sources of flavonoids in the human diet include fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, and cocoa.  Significant evidence has emerged to indicate that consuming a diet rich in flavonoids may inhibit or reverse cognitive aging

Flavonoids may improve cognition in the aged through a number of physiological mechanisms, including scavenging of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species and interactions with intracellular signaling pathways. Through these physiological mechanisms, flavonoids also impart an anti-inflammatory effect that may improve cognition. This seems likely for the flavone luteolin, which is most prominent in parsley, celery, and green peppers.
Whereas luteolin inhibits several transcription factors that mediate inflammatory genes (e.g., nuclear factor kappa B [NF-κB]and activator protein 1 [AP-1]), it is a potent activator of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), which induces the expression of genes encoding antioxidant enzymes. A recent study of old healthy mice found improved learning and memory and reduced expression of inflammatory genes in the hippocampus when luteolin was included in the diet. Thus, dietary luteolin may improve cognitive function in the aged by reducing brain microglial cell activity.
Hence, the flavonoid luteolin is a naturally occurring immune modulator that may be effective in reducing inflammatory microglia in the senescent brain.

In light of the recent evidence suggesting microglial cells become dysregulated due to aging and cause neuroinflammation, which can disrupt neural structure and function, it is an interesting prospect to think dietary flavonoids and other bioactives can be used to constrain microglia. But how can flavonoids impart this anti-inflammatory effect? Although in vitro studies clearly indicate that several flavonoids can act directly on microglial cells to restrict the inflammatory response, results from in vivo studies thus far do not prove that dietary flavonoids access the brain to interact with microglia in a meaningful way. This is a complicated question to dissect because flavonoids reduce inflammation in the periphery and microglia seem to act like an “immunostat,” detecting and responding to signals emerging from immune-to-brain signaling pathways. Thus, whether dietary flavonoids enter the brain and impart an anti-inflammatory effect on microglia is an interesting question but one that is more theoretical than practical because what is most important is how the immunostat is adjusted, whether that is via a direct or indirect route. However, because flavonoids are detectable in the brain they most likely affect microglia both directly and by dampening immune-to-brain signaling.

Interesting Natural Substances

In no particular order, these are several very interesting flavonoids/carotenoids.  In the lab, they all do some remarkable things.

In humans, they also do some interesting things; how helpful they might be in autism remains to be seen.

Being “natural” does not mean they are good for you and have no side-effects.

Some of the following are very widely used and so you can establish if there are issues with long term use.  It also makes them accessible.

Quercetin (found in many fruits, numerous interesting effects)

and two Quercetin-related flavonoids:-

Kaempferol (widely used in traditional medicine)

Myricetin (has good and bad effects)

Lycopene  (from tomatoes, potent anti-cancer, does not cross the BBB)

Luteolin(in many vegetables, like broccoli) 

Apigenin (from chamomile, stimulates neurogenesis, PAM of GABAA, block NDMA receptors, antagonist of opioid receptors …)

Tangeretin (from tangerines, does cross the BBB, has potent effects in vitro)

Nobiletin (from tangerines)

Hesperidin (from tangerines)

Naringin (from Grapefruit, contraindicated with many prescription drugs)

Epicatechin/Catechin  (the chocolate/cocoa flavonoids, do cross the BBB, well researched)

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Why not Cocoa Flavanols for Autism?

Judging by my blog statistics, lots of people are interested in broccoli (Sulforaphane) to treat autism.  Thanks to the patents held by Johns Hopkins, you can expect to hear much more about Sulforaphane in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Columbia University and Mars, the chocolate people, have released a study showing that “flavanoids” in cocoa can do wonders for memory loss in older people.  In effect, they can restore memory in 60 years olds to where it was 20 or 30 years earlier.

If you take a step back and look at what is known by science about oxidative stress and antioxidants, all will become much clearer.

Oxidative Stress Pioneers

In an earlier post we met Paul Talalay, a German-American, who worked at Johns Hopkins.  He specializes in foods that protect you from cancer.  He is Mr Broccoli. 

It turns out that perhaps the real pioneer in this field is a 100% German, called Helmut Sies, who also studies foods that act as antioxidants and nutrients that provide protection from cancer.  We have his very detailed diagram below, that explains the relationship between many of the factors involved in oxidative stress.  I wish I had found it earlier.  I added the six outer boxes.

If you want to read clever studies about this subject, just include Helmut Sies in your search; for example “selenium Helmut Sies”.

Redox Pioneer: Professor Helmut Sies

On this graphic you will see GSH (Glutathione).  When you take NAC (N-acetylcysteine) you directly raise the level of GSH.  When eat broccoli you activate Nrf2, which is a Redox switch, just under the traffic light in the graphic.

When you eat certain flavonoids, like Cocoa, or carotenoids like lycopene (found in tomatoes), you again promote the anti-oxidative free radical scavenger effect.  Look in the blue boxes under diet.

Not on the diagram, we also have flavonolignans which are natural phenols composed of a part flavonoid and a part lignan. As pointed out in a comment in the last post by Seth Bittker, one interesting  flavonolignan is Silibinin, which has anti-oxidant and chemoprotective effects

Note the presence of (Coenzyme) Q10 in the yellow box.  This is part of the mitochondrial cocktail suggested by Dr Kelley from Johns Hopkins for regressive autism.  Q10 is depleted by statins.

Glutathione peroxidases, in the yellow box, are also very interesting.  These are selenium-containing enzymes.  GPx (x goes from 1 to 8)  catalyze the reduction of H2O2 and organic hydroperoxides to harmless products. This function helps to maintain membrane integrity and to reduce further oxidative damage to molecules such as lipids and lipoproteins with the associated increased risk of conditions such as atherosclerosis.  It appears GP1 may be defective in autism and this is contributes to increased oxidative stress.  This area has been well studied due to its impact on heart disease.  You appear to be able to counter the lack of GPx with yeast-bound selenium, other forms of selenium do not work, due to a lack of bioavailability. A post will appear just on Selenium.

There are several other potent (exogenous) antioxidants that we have come across:-

  • Alpha lipoic acid also known as ALA or Tioctic acid (found  in Dr Kelley’s cocktail)
  •   L-Carnosine (studied by Dr Chez )
  •  Vitamin C (suggested by many, including Dr Kelley)

Another day, another anti-oxidant

In human health, two well used anti-oxidant drugs are Alpha lipoic Acid (ALA,  also known as Tioctic acid) and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).  They share many similar effects.

  •       Potent antioxidant
  •       Increase insulin sensitivity
  •       Improve memory in those with mild cognitive          impairment
  •       May lower blood pressure
  •       Improve behavior in autism

NAC is widely used to treat Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and ALA is used to treat diabetic neuropathy. Perhaps they could be interchanged

·        NAC has a chemoprotective effect
·        ALA has been shown to induce cell cycle arrest in  human breast cancers      cells

Back to Cocoa Flavanols and Mars

This flurry of activity was driven by a well publicized study done at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), using a high cocoa flavanol concentration drink provided by Mars.

In the CUMC study, 37 healthy volunteers, ages 50 to 69, were randomized to receive either a high-flavanol diet (900 mg of flavanols a day) or a low-flavanol diet (10 mg of flavanols a day) for three months. Brain imaging and memory tests were administered to each participant before and after the study. The brain imaging measured blood volume in the dentate gyrus, a measure of metabolism, and the memory test involved a 20-minute pattern-recognition exercise designed to evaluate a type of memory controlled by the dentate gyrus.
The high-flavanol group also performed significantly better on the memory test. “If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old,” said Dr. Small. He cautioned, however, that the findings need to be replicated in a larger study—which he and his team plan to do.

This is very impressive.  But how do the other anti-oxidants compare?

Well, without funding from Mars, researchers only managed the money to test ALA and NAC on mice; but as you might expect, the result was similar.

Chronic administration of either LA or NAC improved cognition of 12-month-old SAMP8 mice in both the T-maze footshock avoidance paradigm and the lever press appetitive task without inducing non-specific effects on motor activity, motivation to avoid shock, or body weight. These effects probably occurred directly within the brain, as NAC crossed the blood-brain barrier and accumulated in the brain. Furthermore, treatment of 12-month-old SAMP8 mice with LA reversed all three indexes of oxidative stress. These results support the hypothesis that oxidative stress can lead to cognitive dysfunction and provide evidence for a therapeutic role for antioxidants.

Cocoa Flavanols are good for your heart

This is also good news, but it does seem that antioxidants are generally very good for your heart.

First cocoa.

In this study blood pressure, glucose, insulin and cholesterol were all markedly affected for the better by the cocoa as was cognitive function.

This is great;  but it is what Helmut Sies has been telling the world for many years.

Abstract—Flavanol consumption is favorably associated with cognitive function. We tested the hypothesis that dietary flavanols might improve cognitive function in subjects with mild cognitive impairment. We conducted a double-blind, parallel arm study in 90 elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment randomized to consume once daily for 8 weeks a drink containing _990 mg (high flavanols), _520 mg (intermediate flavanols), or _45 mg (low flavanols) of cocoa flavanols per day. Cognitive function was assessed by Mini Mental State Examination, Trail Making Test A and B, and verbal fluency test. At the end of the follow-up period, Mini Mental State Examination was similar in the 3 treatment groups (P_0.13). The time required to complete Trail Making Test A and Trail Making Test B was significantly (P_0.05) lower in subjects assigned to high flavanols (38.10_10.94 and 104.10_28.73 seconds, respectively) and intermediate flavanols (40.20_11.35 and 115.97_28.35 seconds, respectively) in comparison with those assigned to low flavanols (52.60_17.97 and 139.23_43.02 seconds, respectively). Similarly, verbal fluency test score was significantly (P_0.05) better in subjects assigned to high flavanols in comparison with those assigned to low flavanols (27.50_6.75 versus 22.30_8.09 words per 60 seconds). Insulin resistance, blood pressure, and lipid peroxidation also decreased among subjects in the high-flavanol and intermediate-flavanol groups. Changes of insulin resistance explained _40% of composite z score variability through the study period (partial r2_0.4013; P_0.0001). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first dietary intervention study demonstrating that the regular consumption of cocoa flavanols might be effective in improving cognitive function in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment. This effect appears mediated in part by an improvement in insulin sensitivity.

There are more cocoa studies:-

Cocoa Flavanols as a therapy for Autism

Based on the work of Helmut Sies and the trials funded by Mars, it is pretty obvious that 1,000mg of cocoa flavanols a day would very likely have a marked effect on someone with autism, assuming that is they were not already taking NAC, ALA, Carnosine, Broccoli, Sulforaphane or Selenium.  500 mg should also have an effect.

Choice of antioxidant

The question is what is the ultimate treatment for oxidative stress in autism?

I guess this will depend on exactly what type of autism you have (regressive or not), to what extent you have a mitochondrial dysfunction and whether you have any genetic dysfunction related to oxidative stress.

What works best in Billy, may be suboptimal in Charlie, but still much better than nothing at all.

It looks to me that NAC and ALA will likely be the most potent antioxidants.

If you live in the US, you can buy cocoa flavanols in standardized doses from Mars.  One capsule = 125mg of cocoa flavanols.   I have to add that I am far more inclined to believe Mars, than those supplement companies out there.  You can buy tablets saying they contain 50 mcg of Selenium, but what do they really contain? 

You can also buy “high flavanol” raw (non-alkalized) cocoa powder in big bags.  This lighter brown cocoa has lost far less of the flavonoids in the processing process.  In theory, a 5g teaspoon of the very best one will contain (on a good day) 415 mg of flavavols.

Mars are only supplying their CocoaVia products in North America, so if you want to try cocoa flavanols you have a few options:-

·        8.5 teaspoons of standard raw cocoa  (content will vary widely)
·        1.2 teaspoons of “Chococru” upmarket raw cocoa

·        4 capsules of CocoaVia from Mars  

Each of the above should give you 500mg of cocoa flavanols, which would look like a good starting point.  As with NAC, the studies show that the benefit increases the more you take, but the extra benefit drops off.

If somebody in the US tries CocoaVia, do let us know the result.

Not surprising, Mars tell us on the label that the product is not intended for children.  I do not suppose they ever thought of it being an autism therapy either.

I do like the idea of the redox switch, Nrf2, which Sulforaphane is known to activate.  I also like the idea of the enzyme GP1 that acts as catalyst in the oxidation/reduction process.

The science is around 20 years old and nobody has yet figured it all out;  they probably will not conclusively do so in the next 20 years either.

Food for thought!