Processed Food Cause behind Rise in Autism?

Islamabad (25 June, 2019): Scientists discover molecular connection between a common food preservative, neuronal disruption, and autism spectrum disorder.

According to Baaghi TV’s sources, the recent findings suggest there may be a definitive link between consumption of processed food and the autism spectrum disorder. Based on statistics presented bby the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 child in 150 was affected by the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 2000, however, this percentage has alarmingly increased to 1 in 59 children by 2018.

Scientists believe ASD is caused by a combination of genes, environmental factors and problems connected to maternal immune system in the early stages of pregnancy. Recent studies have pointed to the gut microbiome as a key player in the development of autism spectrum disorder. It has been discovered that the ‘microbiota’ of autistic children lacks the beneficial strains of the bacteria Bifidobacteria and Prevotella.

Moreover, based on prior studies autistic children often experience gastrointestinal issues such as constipation and diarrhea, even abdominal pain. Researchers of the University of Central Florida, namely Prof Saleh Naser, Latifa Abdelli and research assistant Aseela Samsam,  have set out to examine the link between gut bacteria and ASD. Their primary focus being to examine the link between propionic acid (PPA) and autism.

Professor Naser explained, that there is a “higher level of PPA in stool samples [of autistic children] and the gut microbiome in autistic children is different.” He added that he was interested in what caused this difference. PPA is used as a food preservative and flavoring agent by many manufacturers for packaged and processed food items as it is a naturally occurring short-chain saturated fatty acid that possesses antifungal properties.

In their research Prof. Naser and his team studied the stem cells by exposing them to abnormally high PPA levels. The result being that higher PPA levels reduces neurons and increases glial cells. While glial cells can support the neural system, buildup of these cells can lead to inflammation in the bran as well as causing disruption in connectivity between the neurons. Higher levels of PPA also damage molecular pathways according to the recent study.

Researchers believe that it is due to this disruption in the brain’s functionality that causes the speech impairment and other ASD-related issue such as repetitive behavior in children with ASD. They further inferred that eating foods with higher levels of PPA during pregnancy may increase in PPA levels within the maternal gut which could then be transferred to the fetus.

“We are linking maternal PPA exposure to disturbed neural patterning during early stages of embryonic neural development leading to overproliferation of glial cells, abnormal neural architecture, and increased inflammatory profile; possible precursors for autism”, claim authors of the ongoing study.

Prof. Naser believes that this finding is but a start to more research before they can confirm the clinical conclusions inferred from the ongoing study.

Prof. Naser and his colleagues have so far concluded with the idea that the research is “only the first step toward [a] better understanding of [ASD]. But we have confidence we are on the right track to finally uncovering autism etiology.”


Stay tuned to Baaghi TV for more updates.

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