There may be a link between autism and processed food. A news report published by MedicalNewsToday stated that for the first time, scientists may have found a molecular connection between a common food preservative, neuronal disruption, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The findings suggest that there may be a link between the consumption of processed foods during pregnancy and the rise of autism in children.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), known mainly as autism, is a brain development condition that is characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and non verbal communication as well as unique strengths and differences. A child with ASD who is very sensitive may be greatly troubled by sounds, touches, sights or smells that may seem normal to others.
The most obvious signs of autism usually begin in early childhood around the ages of 2 and 3, however, it is not uncommon to be diagnosed as early as 18 months. The number of children being diagnosed with ASD has been increasing, however, it is not entirely clear whether this is due to increased detection and reporting or whether there is an actual increase in the number of cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2000, 1 in 150 children had ASD, but by 2012, that number had risen to 1 in 68. And as at 2018, the number has further escalated to 1 in 59 children.
Could Processed Foods Be Responsible For The Rise In Autism?
In the news report published by MedicalNewsToday, research Professor, Saleh Naser and Latifa Abdelli — together with undergraduate research assistat Aseela Samsam, from the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando — set out to further examine the link between gut bacteria and ASD. Specifically, the team focused on the link between propionic acid (PPA) and autism. Their studies have pointed to the gut microbiome as a potential key player in the development of ASD.
“Studies have shown a higher level of PPA in stool samples from [autistic children] and the gut microbiome in autistic children is different,” explains Prof. Naser, also of the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences at UCF.
In the new study, Professor Naser and colleagues exposed neural stem cells to abnormally high PPA levels. The researchers published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.
The researchers suggest that eating processed foods likely to have high levels of PPA during pregnancy may increase PPA levels in the maternal gut, which could then transfer to the fetus. This depicts a probable link between autism and processed food.
In their new study, they reported that too much PPA damaged the molecular pathways that normally enable neurons to send information to the rest of the body. This disruption in the brain’s ability to communicate may explain ASD-related characteristics such as repetitive behavior and difficulties with social interaction.
What is the link between PPA and autism?
Experiments with cultured neural stem cells have revealed that very high PPA levels reduce the number of cells that go on to differentiate into neurons and increase the number of cells that go on to become glial cells.
Prof. Nasar and team acknowledged the fact that more research is necessary before they can reach any clinical conclusions. “This is an intriguing finding and a first in the field,” write the researchers. Their next steps include replicating the findings in mice and determining whether a high-PPA maternal diet leads to offspring with ASD-like behavior.
Safer Diet For Autism
Autism and processed food may have a link. Consuming processed foods is likely to increase the risk of autism. It will be helpful to know which diet we need to avoid as far as autism is concerned. Here are the top 5 foods to avoid as they can make ASD worse as indicated by Amen Clinics.
- Dairy foods : Dairy foods contain a protein called casein which mixes with stomach acid, to produces something called an exorphin. Exorphins bind to the opioid receptor sites and can result in a myriad of troubles – brain fog, spaciness, inability to concentrate, and a numbness to pain, just to name a few. They stated that when people with ASD removed dairy from their diet, they began talking more, their hyperactivity was reduced, and bowel problems were resolved.
- Gluten : This is a mixture of proteins found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten increases inflammation when ingested and seems to particularly negatively affect the functioning of the cerebellum. Amen Clinics stated that through their imaging work, they discovered that those with ASD already often have decreased functioning of their cerebellum and consuming gluten makes it much worse.
- Corn : According to Amen Clinics, corn has been found to be a breeding ground for as many as 22 different fungi. There is simply nothing truly beneficial and many potentially harmful things for those with ASD that can come from eating corn.
- Sugar : Sugar is pro-inflammatory and also increases erratic brain cell firing. Not to mention the problem of sugar addiction. Amen Clinics noted that avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates and also increasing lean protein can dramatically improve concentration and judgment, and decrease impulsiveness in those with ASD.
- Artificial ingredients : Although they are not really foods, but they are present in so many food products. They advice those with ASD to avoid all additives, preservatives, dyes and artificial colors, artificial flavorings, and artificial sweeteners.