(04/30/12) HARRISBURG, Pa. - The typical American diet may be linked to the epidemic of autism in children in the U.S., according to a new study published online in the journal Clinical Epigenetics.
David Wallinga, senior adviser in science, food and health at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, says unhealthy diets interfere with the body's ability to eliminate toxic chemicals, increasing the risk for long-term health problems like autism.
"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."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 13 percent of eight-year-olds in Pennsylvania exhibit signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Wallinga says one example of the link between nutrition and autism is that highly-processed and sweetened foods can affect a body's ability to detoxify.
"People who consume high-fructose corn syrup can develop problems with mineral deficiencies, and these mineral deficiencies in turn can make their bodies have more problems with getting rid of contaminates in their bodies."
Wallinga says that, to reduce the risk, children and pregnant women should focus on a diet that's higher in antioxidants and needed minerals.
"If you've got enough calcium in your diet, it's going to protect you from absorbing lead, and 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."
The IATP study follows two others recently published, one linking autism to obesity during pregnancy and another showing that the rate of autism spectrum disorders increased by nearly 80 percent from 2002 to 2008.
You can find all the details on this latest study at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy website, www.iatp.org or at www.
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