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Autism is What You Eat? Study Finds Links to Diet

April 18, 2012

CASPER, Wyo. - April is Autism Awareness Month, calling attention to a condition affecting at least one in every 88 children in Wyoming, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The epidemic of autism in children may be linked to what they eat, suggests a study recently reported in the journal "Clinical Epigenetics."

An unhealthy diet, combined with environmental exposures, interferes with the body's ability to eliminate toxic chemicals, increasing the risk of long-term health problems such as autism, explains David Wallinga, senior adviser in science, food and health with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

"We're not pretending that it's not complex. It is. But the important thing to realize is that these environmental and nutritional factors are critical, that they work together, and that ultimately a lot of them are preventable causes of autism."

This study comes in the wake of two others - one linking autism to obesity during pregnancy and another showing the rate of autism spectrum disorders increased by nearly 80 percent from 2002 to 2008.

As an example of the link between nutrition and autism, Wallinga points out that eating highly processed and sweetened foods can affect the body's ability to detoxify. To reduce risk, Wallinga advises moms-to-be and children to maintain a diet higher in the antioxidants and minerals they need.

"If you've got enough calcium in your diet, it's going to protect you from absorbing lead. Concurrently, if you are calcium-deficient, then you're going to absorb more lead in your gut and therefore have more lead in your bloodstream."

Autism disorders are more likely in people who have certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, the CDC reports, and more than half of those diagnosed with autism do not have intellectual disorders.

More information is available at www.iatp.org. The full study report is available at www.clinicalepigeneticsjournal.com.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY