Zinc, Copper, and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Joint Research

Research indicates that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appear to be at risk for zinc (Zn) deficiency, copper (Cu) toxicity, and often disturbed metallothionein system functioning (1-4). Working with international researchers, the following is a summary of our work.

Li et al. (2014) investigated the serum levels of Zn and Cu in 60 Chinese children with ASD (48 boys, 12 girls) and a control group of 60 healthy sex-matched and age-matched individuals (2). The researchers also evaluated the autism severity using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) score. The mean serum Zn levels and Zn/Cu ratio in the study were significantly lower in the ASD children compared with the control group (P<0.001). At the same, the serum Cu levels were significantly higher in the ASD children compared with the control group (P<0.001). It was in the study found a significant negative association between the Zn/Cu ratio and CARS scores (r=-0.345, P=0.007) (2).

Macedoni-Lukšič et al. (2015) determined the serum levels of Zn and Cu in a group of Slovenian children with ASD (N = 52, average age = 6.2 years) and a control group of children with other neurological disorders (N = 22, average age = 6.6 years), matched in terms of intellectual abilities (3). Compared to the control group, the ASD group had significantly elevated serum Cu/Zn ratio (95% confidence interval for children with ASD=1.86-2.26; 95% confidence interval for the control group=1.51-1.88) (3).

Crăciun et al. (2016) investigated the levels of Zn and Cu in whole blood, as well as the Cu/Zn ratio in a group of 28 Romanian ASD children. No significant difference in whole blood Cu was observed. However, Cu/Zn ratio was ~15 % (p = 0.008) higher in ASD children than that in the control ones. The results of the study may be indicative of Zn deficiency in ASD children (4).

In conclusion, our research suggests that providing Zn to ASD children may be an important component of a treatment protocol, especially in children with Zn deficiency (1-4). Mercury accumulation may occur as a cause or consequence of metallothionein dysfunction in ASD children, which may be one of the causes of Zn deficiency. Metallothioneins are proteins with important functions in metal metabolism and protection. It is important to monitor and follow the values for both Cu and Zn together during Zn therapy because these two trace elements are both antagonists in function, and essential for living cells (1).

– Geir Bjørklund

 

References

1. Bjørklund G. The role of zinc and copper in autism spectrum disorders. Acta Neurobiol Exp 2013; 73: 225–236.

2. Li SO, Wang JL, Bjørklund G, Zhao WN, Yin CH. Serum copper and zinc levels in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Neuroreport 2014; 25: 1216-1220.

3. Macedoni-Lukšič M, Gosar D, Bjørklund G, Oražem J, Kodrič J, Lešnik-Musek P, Zupančič M, France-Štiglic A, Sešek-Briški A, Neubauer D, Osredkar J. Levels of metals in the blood and specific porphyrins in the urine in children with autism spectrum disorders. Biol Trace Elem Res 2015; 163: 2-10.

4. Crăciun EC, Bjørklund G, Tinkov AA, Urbina MA, Skalny AV, Rad F, Dronca E. Evaluation of whole blood zinc and copper levels in children with autism spectrum disorder. Metab Brain Dis 2016; 31: 887-890.

Serum Zinc and Copper Levels in Autistic Children

NeuroReport 25 (15) 2014In collaboration with Chinese researchers, Geir Bjørklund investigated the serum levels of zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu) in 60 Chinese children with autism (48 boys, 12 girls) and a control group of 60 healthy sex-matched and age-matched individuals. The researchers also evaluated the severity of autism using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) score. The mean serum Zn levels and Zn/Cu ratio in the study were significantly lower in the autistic children compared with the control group (P<0.001). At the same time were the serum Cu levels significantly higher in the autistic children compared with the control group (P<0.001). It was in the study found a significant negative association between the Zn/Cu ratio and CARS scores (r=-0.345, P=0.007). 

The original article is published in NeuroReport (2014; 25 (15): 1216–1220). Bjørklund is founder and president of Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (CONEM).

 

Si-Ou Li, Jia-Liang Wang, Geir Bjørklund, Wei-Na Zhao, and Chang-Hao Yin

Serum copper and zinc levels in individuals with autism spectrum disorders

Neuroreport 2014; 25 (15): 1216-1220

 

ABSTRACT

Trace elements play a critical role in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The aim of this study was to investigate the serum levels of zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu) in Chinese children with ASD. Sixty patients (48 males, 12 females) diagnosed with ASD and 60 healthy sex-matched and age-matched control participants were assessed for serum Zn and Cu content at admission. The severity of ASD was also evaluated using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) score. The results indicated that the mean serum Zn levels and Zn/Cu ratio were significantly lower in children with ASD compared with normal cases (P<0.001, respectively), whereas serum Cu levels were significantly higher (P<0.001). There was a significant negative association between Zn/Cu and CARS scores (r=-0.345, P=0.007). On the basis of the receiver operating characteristic curve, the optimal cut-off value of serum levels of Zn/Cu as an indicator for an auxiliary diagnosis of autism was projected to be 0.665, which yielded a sensitivity of 90.0% and a specificity of 91.7%; the area under the curve was 0.968 (95% confidence interval, 0.943-0.993). In conclusion, these results suggested an association between serum levels of Zn and Cu and ASD among Chinese patients, and the Zn/Cu ratio could be considered a biomarker of ASD.

 

The Role of Zinc and Copper in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Acta Neurobiol Exp 2013, 2Children with Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) appear to be at risk for zinc (Zn) deficiency, copper (Cu) toxicity, have often low Zn/Cu ratio, and often disturbed metallothionein (MT) system functioning. The evidence presented in this paper suggests that providing Zn to autistic children may be an important component of a treatment protocol, especially in children with Zn deficiency. It is important to monitor and follow the values for both Cu and Zn together during Zn therapy, because these two trace elements are both antagonists in function, and essential for living cells. 

The review article by Geir Bjørklund is published in Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis (2013; 73 (2): 225–236). This peer-reviewed journal is published by Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology in Warsaw, Poland. Bjørklund is founder and president of Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (CONEM).

 

Geir Bjørklund

The role of zinc and copper in autism spectrum disorders

Acta Neurobiol Exp (Wars) 2013; 73 (2): 225-236 

 

ABSTRACT

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Several studies have suggested a disturbance in the copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) metabolism in ASDs. Zinc deficiency, excess Cu levels, and low Zn/Cu ratio are common in children diagnosed with an ASD. The literature also suggests that mercury accumulation may occur as a cause or consequence of metallothionein (MT) dysfunction in children diagnosed with an ASD, which may be one of the causes of Zn deficiency. MTs are proteins with important functions in metal metabolism and protection. Zinc and Cu bind to and participate in the control of the synthesis of MT proteins. Studies indicate that the GABAergic system may be involved in ASDs, and that Zn and Cu may play a role in this system.