An antioxidant supplement called N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) may help to reduce the impact of autism symptoms, suggests a new study.

Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital gave the NAC supplement to 31 autistic children aged from 3 to 12 years old for 12 weeks.

During the study period, researchers focused on whether classic behavioural problems that affect children with autism - such as irritability, which can lead to involuntary bouts of kicking, hitting and biting - became more manageable.

Researchers used the Aberrant Behaviour Checklist to measure their progress.

autism boy

"Today, in 2012, we have no effective medication to treat repetitive behavior such as hand flapping or any other core features of autism," said study author Antonio Harden, according to Science Daily.

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Researchers discovered a significant decrease in irritability after the 12-week period.

Scores dropped from 13.1 to 7.2 and positive changes were noted regarding repetitive behaviour, levels of shyness and ability to communicate.

It has been suggested in previous studies that people with autism are deficient in antioxidants.

In the future, scientists hope to expand on their preliminary research, which has been published in Biological Psychiatry.

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