A link to autism in food -- not vaccines

Is there a connection between some processed foods and autism?
Is there a connection between some processed foods and autism?
Scientists studying the cause of autism are focused on the possible impact of processed foods on a fetus.

    Working at the University of Central Florida, researchers identified molecular changes that occur when "neuro stem cells are exposed to high levels of an acid commonly found in processed foods," according to the university.
     Autistic children often suffer from gastric issues such as irritable bowel syndrome.This led scientists to examine how gut bacteria differed in people with autism. The research focused on Propionic Acid (PPA), defined by Merriam Webster as "a liquid sharp-odored fatty acid ...found in milk and distillates of wood, coal, and petroleum and used especially as a mold inhibitor and flavoring agent".
     Studies have shown a higher level of PPA in stool samples from children with autism, and the gut microbiome in autistic children is different, according to the university's website.
      "Scientists found exposing neural stem cells to excessive PPA damages brain cells in several ways," the university's news release explains. "First, the acid disrupts the natural balance between brain cells by reducing the number of neurons and over-producing glial cells."
     Glial cells are defined as "supportive cells in the central nervous system," on the website MedicineNet. "The glial cells surround neurons and provide support for and insulation between them," according to the website.
     While glial cells help develop and protect neuron function, having too many of them disturbs connectivity between neurons. "They also cause inflammation," according to the university, "which has been noted in the brains of autistic children."
     This matters because "excessive amounts of the acid also shorten and damage pathways that neurons use to communicate with the rest of the body," the university website concludes. This can interrupt the brain’s ability to communicate, "resulting in behaviors that are often found in children with autism, including repetitive behavior, mobility issues and inability to interact with others."
     About 1 in 59 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. In 1998, faulty research pointed at a link between measles vaccines and autism in children. Even though the research has long since been debunked, some parents have not vaccinated their children. As a consequence, this year marked a high point in the spread of measles, with more than 1,000 individual cases confirmed so far in 28 states, according to the CDC.
    It was the most cases reported in the U.S. since 1992, and, more to the point, since measles were declared eliminated in 2000, the CDC reports.  The vaccine is safe, according to health officials.
    The Florida researchers' work is available online. It is: "Propionic Acid Induces Gliosis and Neuro-inflammation through Modulation of PTEN/AKT Pathway in Autism Spectrum Disorder," by Latifa S. Abdelli, Aseela Samsam and Saleh A. Naser, published June 19 by Scientific Reports.


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