Vitamin E is an important nutrient available from a variety of foods such as vegetable oils (sunflower, safflower, peanut, wheat germ), butter and cereals. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that exists in multiple forms, of which alpha-tocopherol is the most important. Vitamin E is considered a powerful antioxidant that can protect cells and tissues from the effects of reactive oxygen species (radicals).
Verbal Apraxia is a neurologically based motor planning speech disorder common in Autism Spectrum Disorders. A deficiency in vitamin E causes symptoms that resemble those of Verbal Apraxia. Cell membranes contain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are vulnerable to lipid peroxidation and break down if vitamin E levels are low, potentially leading to neurological symptoms. Other research has suggested that oxidative stress and an impaired response to oxidative stress can be an important factor in the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, ALS and others. Specifically, vitamin E supplementation has been reported to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent evidence also suggests that developmental disorders such as Verbal Apraxia, ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders are linked to a deficiency of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as vitamin E). Several studies have shown that the supplementation with omega 3 fish oil (polyunsaturated fatty acids) can result in improvements in behavior, speech and motor skills in children affected by such disorders.
The CHERAB organization has performed extensive studies on the effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and vitamin E on the symptoms of Verbal Apraxia, which include delayed speech, poor muscle tone, motor planning issues, abnormal pain sensation and sensory integration issues. Symptoms of Verbal Apraxia overlap with symptoms found in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, including gastrointestinal symptoms such as gluten sensitivity and malabsorption of certain nutrients.
Supplementation with high doses of polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as Omega 3, 6 and 9 fish oils) and vitamin E in children with Verbal Apraxia has been reported to result in clinical improvements of neurological symptoms for many children. When supplementation was stopped in some of these children, speech and coordination reportedly regressed, suggesting an abnormal fatty acid metabolism that was somehow compensated by high doses of fish oils and vitamin E. Some families reported temporary loss of speech and coordination during viral illnesses, suggesting that inflammatory conditions may have a negative impact on neurological functioning.
High doses of polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E can result in prolonged bleeding times and parents are therefore urged to discuss the use of PUFAs and vitamin E with their child’s pediatrician prior to starting a PUFA/vitamin E regimen. Bruising is one of the signs of prolonged bleeding times.
My personal observations with vitamin E supplementation is that daily use of high doses of vitamin E can actually result in the appearance of particular speech problems, such as stuttering. When we reduced the dosing of vitamin E to once every 7-10 days, our son’s stuttering would stop. This would suggest that vitamin E has to be “cycled“, which means a few days on vitamin E and a few days off. The actual “cycle time” has to be determined for each child and is most likely dependent on the child’s age and weight. To reap the benefits of vitamin E supplementation, our child was given a high dose of vitamin E for 1-2 days every 7-10 days. This particular dosing regimen resulted in improved speech, while keeping the stuttering under control.
Additional information about vitamin E can be found on Cherab’s website and on the Cherab forum on Big Tent.
Morris, C.R. and Agin, M.C. (2009) Syndrome Of Allergy, Apraxia, And Malabsorption: Characterization Of A Neurodevelopmental Phenotype That Responds To Omega 3 And Vitamin E Supplementation. Alt. Therap.15: 34-43.
Butterfield, D.A., Castegna, A., Drake, J., Scapagnini, G. And Calabrese, V. (2002) Vitamin E and Neurodegenerative Disorders Associated with Oxidative Stress. Nutr. Neurosc.5: 229-239.