Parents and caregivers of autistic children have been concerned for years and now the facts are in: children with autism, by and large, are eating poorly and perhaps dangerously so. That is the conclusion of the meta-study recently published by the Marcus Autism Center and the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. After taking the research and results of every published study available on the subject and analyzing them together, they have concluded that children with autism are five times as likely as the general population to have feeding problems. After releasing these results in February 2013, researchers now hope to look more closely at what this means for individual autistic patients and their families.
What the consequences of these findings will be are not yet known. The first health concern is, of course, proper nutrition. A strictly limited diet over a long period of time could result in nutritional pitfalls for a population who can ill afford it. The Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy found that even mildly poor nutrition can effect cognitive development in children. Another concern is the social and societal implications of poor eating. A child who already has social deficits may have an even harder time if their eating habits are noticeably out of the ordinary. Overcoming eating problems early can be an important part of the treatments and therapies an autistic child requires, impacting both the child’s overall health as well as the child’s ability to function socially in the world.
The mutations of three genes have been linked to autism in a new series of studies published in the journal Nature. The genetic aberrations linked to autism spectrum disorders were announced by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The mutated genes were identified as CHD8, SNC2A, and KATNAL2.
The genetic aberrations were discovered using new state of the art technology called exome sequencing. This technology analyzes all protein coding regions of the genome, allowing researchers to characterize and sequence genes. The study used data from over 500 families to sequence the protein enriched areas of the genome, searching for aberrations that appeared in multiple affected children, but not in children without autism.
Using large-scale next-generation sequencing, the Autism Sequencing Consortium, a worldwide group of autism genetics researchers, is working to classify other genetic causes of autism. Researchers believe that more genetic mutations on other genes will also be linked to the development of autism eventually. There are a large number of genes involved in the development of autism and researchers believed that they have discovered around 10% of them so far. Researchers are studying children affected by autism and their parents to uncover the genes that result in the development of autism spectrum disorders.
Researchers are still unsure of the exact cause of autism, but it is believed that autism is influenced by environmental conditions and genetic aberrations. The results of the new series of studies will provide future researchers with a good direction for future studies and valuable insight into the nature of the condition. Researchers say that with further research, they will be able to develop preventative measures and novel treatments for autism.
New research is showing language delays or speech problems in the siblings of autistic children. These results suggest that the same genes that cause autism may also cause language and speech problems. The study also found that girls were more likely to show these types of delays. Boys are normally diagnosed with autism far more often than girls, but these results raise the possibility that if such difficulties were included along spectrum of autism diagnosis, the number of diagnosed girls would rise significantly.
Of 3,000 children from 1,200 families throughout the United States, 20 percent of siblings showed speech or language problems. Half of those problems were similar to those found in autistic children such as invented words.
Researchers feel that the study could offer some insight into the genetic patterns of autism within families and may help predict patterns in the transmission of autism as well as how environmental and other factors could play into how autism manifests. The results also provide further evidence of a genetic basis for autism.
The study was done by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. and published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.
Overweight mothers with either Type 2 or gestational diabetes may be more likely to have a child with autism or with other developmental disabilities according to a recent study conducted by the University of California – Davis. Because nearly one-tenth of pregnant women have a form of diabetes and one-third of women of childbearing age are obese, these findings could represent a significant risk for the health of the fetus.
Theories about how the disabilities develop include the idea that elevated maternal glucose levels leads to fetal overexposure to insulin as well as the possibility of less oxygen reaching the fetus due to insulin production and iron deficiency related to diabetes.
The study, published in the journal “Pediatrics,” looked at 1,004 pairs of mothers and children over a seven-year period. For women who do not have diabetes, 6.4 percent is the typical rate of children born with disabilities. For women with diabetes in the study, however, the rate was 9.3 percent of children born with autism and 11.6 percent of children born with developmental disabilities.
Even children of diabetic mothers who were not diagnosed with autism scored lower on tests of language and communication skills.
While the results of the study are persuasive, further testing must be done to establish a definite link between obesity, diabetes and autism or other developmental disabilities.
According to a University of Texas research study, parents who have children at later ages are more likely to have kids afflicted by autism. From other autism research being performed in Jamaica, scientists took a group of 68 parental pairs who were matched for age and sex. The present study is an addition to a series of autism research being handled in Jamaica as part of a partnership between the University of the West Indies and University of Texas.
In the past, studies had appeared to isolate autism risk to only the age of either the father or the mother. According to Mohammad Hossein Rahbar, the principal investigator in charge of the study, scientists can now see that this isn’t the case. Their results showed that autism risk in children is jointly tied to the age of both the mother and the father.
This latest study made surprising findings in the differences between the ages of mothers and fathers and their relation to autism risk. For example, mothers who gave birth to an autistic child were an average of 6.5 years older than women who didn’t have kids with autism. For fathers, the difference was a bit smaller at 5.9 years.
In the past, studies were less successful at making sense of the link between parental age and autism because of the statistical models that were used. The complex data had confused analysis due to a statistical phenomenon called multicollinearity. This time, the study’s lead investigator used new statistical models to cut through the web of data.
New research investigated undervaccination in 8 managed care organizations across the United States. Researchers examined trends of undervaccination in children (2-24 months) to compare health care utilization rates between undervaccinated and age-appropriately vaccinated children.
Results of this study were not less than I anticipated based on what we do know about vaccines and the effects it can have on the body’s immune system. They found that undervaccinated children had lower outpatient visit rates compared with children who were age-appropriately vaccinated, however undervaccinated children had increased inpatient admission rates compared with age-appropriately vaccinated children. A second analysis of the data found that children who were undervaccinated because of parental choice had lower rates of outpatient and emergency room visits than age-appropriately vaccinated children.
It appears that children who are undervaccinated tend to have different healthcare utilization needs that can translate into having less need perhaps due to better health? Just speculating…
According to new research published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, there is a link between an increased risk of autism due to maternal inflammation during early pregnancy. Researchers found an increased risk of autism in children whose mothers had elevated C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation. Elevated CRP is a sign to health care practitioners that the body is going through some sort of stress that is causing an inflammatory response. An example of a cause could be a viral or bacterial infection. Based on this research found a direct correlation in which the higher the level of CRP in the mother, the greater the risk of autism in the child.
It should be noted that not all mothers with elevated CRP give birth to children with autism. However, it makes sense to exercise due diligence to prevent infections during pregnancy for this reason. Research like this has the potential to encourage further scientists to study how infections, immune responses, etc. may interact with genes to increase the risk of developing autism.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be quite effective with protecting and promoting brain function. Recent studies have shown that administering substantial amounts of omega-3 to children with autism helps to significantly reduce their aggressive and hyperactive behaviors. Most people are aware of omega-3 that is derived from fish oil, but the richest plant-sources of omega-3 comes from chia seeds.
Chia seeds come from the salvia hispanica plant, native to Central and South America. They are considered to be among the most nutrient dense grains available today. Chia seeds are packed with protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and lots of vitamins and minerals. Approximately 64% of the oils of the chia seed are made up of omega-3 fatty acids, which is about 8 times the amount found in salmon!
Chia seeds are an exceptionally high source of easily digestible omega-3 fatty acids, as well as being a powerhouse of nutrition, very high in minerals and boasting an almost the complete protein spectrum (19 out of 22 amino acids). These seeds can easily be added to foods, recipes, baked, etc. Since many autistic children are deficient in omega-3, chia seeds can be a very useful food to add to their diets, and it’s gluten-free!