Environmental Factor – July 2022: Links between nutrition, exposures, and autism focus of NIEHS event

Genetics play a major position in autism, however publicity to environmental contaminants akin to air air pollution and pesticides seemingly contributes, too. An NIEHS workshop held June 21-22 explored whether or not some vitamins could shield folks from the harms of environmental exposures that will relate to the probability of creating autism or related traits.

Among her different efforts, Lawler is a program official for research such because the Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation Study, the Childhood Autism Risk from Genes and Environment Study, and the Markers of Autism Risk in Babies-Learning Early Signs Study. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Over two days, researchers from greater than a dozen establishments throughout the nation introduced data associated to the potential synergistic results of sure meals and vitamins. They mentioned what we all know concerning the results of dietary interventions akin to folate on autism spectrum dysfunction, and what we are able to study from analysis into different well being outcomes, like the results of consuming fish contaminated by methylmercury.

“While we usually take into consideration danger discount from chemical exposures when it comes to eradicating or reducing exposures, generally that may be tough to realize,” mentioned Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., chief of the NIEHS Genes, Environment, and Health Branch. “An different is to concentrate on growing helpful dietary exposures, akin to folate or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), with the premise that these can mitigate danger from dangerous exposures.”

Effects of air pollution and food regimen

Environmental exposures skilled earlier than and through crucial home windows of being pregnant could have lasting well being results, like autism spectrum dysfunction.

Audrey Gaskins, Sc.D. At Emory, Gaskins focuses on the connection between surroundings, food regimen, and fertility in each women and men. (Photo courtesy of Audrey Gaskins)

Traffic air pollution can lower reproductive potential in each women and men, {couples} that reside close to highways have the next probability of infertility, mentioned Audrey Gaskins, Sc.D., an epidemiologist at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. She checked out knowledge from the Environment and Reproductive Health Study, specializing in {couples} from the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center between 2004 and 2019. The dataset contains data on members’ life-style, food regimen, medical and reproductive historical past, in addition to residential addresses, which researchers linked to air air pollution fashions via six fertilization cycles.

Gaskins hypothesized that air air pollution may harm copy via a wide range of organic mechanisms, together with oxidative stress, endocrine disruption, DNA methylation, an altered immune response, and irritation. The extra air air pollution, the larger the lower in members’ reproductive success. Folic acid, an artificial type of folate, nevertheless, appeared to counteract these results. The extra folic acid a pregnant lady took, the upper the chance of a reside start.

“Obviously, far more analysis is required,” mentioned Gaskins, whose work was funded by a grant from NIEHS. “There are only a few preconception cohorts that measure each food regimen and environmental exposures.”

Benefits of folic acid

The advantages of folic acid prolong past copy. Often taken by pregnant girls within the type of a multivitamin to cut back the danger of spina bifida, the complement could scale back the danger of autism as effectively.

“We haven’t got interventions which can be good preventative methods for these neurodevelopmental problems” like autism and schizophrenia, mentioned Joshua Roffman, M.D., director of the Early Brain Development Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital. Yet folic acid is protected, broadly obtainable, and may very well be leveraged to cut back danger.

Research revealed in 2019 by Rebecca Schmidt, Ph.D., a molecular epidemiologist on the University of California, Davis confirmed a lowered related danger of autism in youthful siblings when their moms took a prenatal vitamin with folic acid throughout being pregnant. Among 241 youngsters whose older siblings had autism spectrum dysfunction, 32% developed autism when their moms didn’t take a prenatal vitamin throughout the first month of being pregnant, in comparison with 14% when their moms did take a vitamin complement. Enriched breads and cereals now include folic acid, however growing the quantity and kind of meals fortified with the vitamin may additional lower danger.

Other parts of a prenatal vitamin or dietary supplements like vitamin D or polyunsaturated fatty acids can also have neurodevelopmental advantages. “We want extra research on potential mechanisms that these exposures share, and that would assist us determine learn how to advance methods for any mitigation of danger,” mentioned Schmidt.

It’s difficult

Although a rising physique of analysis factors to the potential protecting results of diet on autism spectrum dysfunction, solely a handful of vitamins have been examined exploring the connection. Presenters cautioned that efforts to analyze dietary interventions also needs to take into account dose, timing, fairness, and entry to therapy.

“I believe that is an thrilling space of analysis, however we must be very considerate about the concept that dietary interventions will not be as straightforward as we expect,” mentioned Youssef Oulhote, Ph.D., an environmental epidemiologist on the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who co-organized the assembly with Kristen Lyall, Sc.D., an epidemiologist at Drexel University.

“The workshop was an effective way to assume extra deeply concerning the strategies we must be utilizing and the questions we must be asking,” famous Lyall.

(Susan Cosier is a contract author for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)


https://factor.niehs.nih.gov/2022/7/science-highlights/nutrition-and-autism/index.htm

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