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.