Monthly Research Review August 2016

Risk factors for ASD

The relationship between mercury and autism: A comprehensive review and discussion.This review found 91 studies that examine the potential relationship between mercury and ASD from 1999 to February 2016. Of these studies, the vast majority (74%) suggest that mercury is a risk factor for ASD, revealing both direct and indirect effects. The preponderance of the evidence indicates that mercury exposure is causal and/or contributory in ASD.


Feeding behavior and dietary intake of male children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a case-control study. “ASD patients consumed in average more calories than controls, had a limited food repertoire, high prevalence of children with inadequate calcium, sodium, iron vitamin B5, folate, and vitamin C intake.” How many parents have been told by their paediatrician or dietician that their child’s diet is fine? How will you know if you don’t test for nutritional deficiencies?

The Therapeutic Effects of Camel Milk: A Systematic Review of Animal and Human Trials.“Identified studies highlighted treatment with camel milk of diseases, including diabetes, autism, cancer, various infections, heavy metal toxicity, colitis, and alcohol-induced toxicity. Although most studies using both the human and animal model do show a clinical benefit with an intervention and camel milk, limitations of these studies must be taken into consideration before widespread use.” Many parents have reported that their children have done well on camel milk. These parents have mostly used unpasteurised camel milk. 

Neurological Issues

Histamine regulation of microglia: gene-environment interaction in the regulation of central nervous system inflammation.Microglia mediate neuroinflammation and regulate brain development and homeostasis. Microglial abnormalities are implicated in a range of neuropsychiatric pathology, including Tourette syndrome (TS) and autism.

Treatment of Severe Self-Injurious Behavior in Autism Spectrum Disorder by Neuromodulation. “An increasing number of case reports and series document the safe and effective use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in children, adolescents, and young adults with autism spectrum disorder who engage in severe, intractable, repetitive self-injurious behavior (SIB) without environmental or operant function.” Where is the assessment of the individual for underlying medical or environmental triggers prior to considering this extreme form of treatment?

Response to Electroconvulsive Therapy in Patients With Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intractable Challenging Behaviors Associated With Symptoms of Catatonia.“Electroconvulsive therapy could be a potentially beneficial intervention in patients with ASD and severe challenging behaviors associated with catatonic symptoms including agitated or excited forms of catatonia.”

Environmental issues

Altered urinary porphyrins and mercury exposure as biomarkers for autism severity in Egyptian children with autism spectrum disorder.Results showed that children with ASD had significantly higher levels of Hg [mercury], Pb [lead], ……. compared to healthy controls and healthy siblings of the ASD children. Mothers of ASD children showed a higher percentage of dental amalgam restorations compared to the mothers of healthy controls suggesting that high Hg levels in children with ASD may relate to the increased exposure to Hg from maternal dental amalgam during pregnancy and lactation.

Supplements and novel therapies

Vitamin A deficiency and xerophthalmia in children of a developed country. “Fifty-two of the 146 children had VAD [vitamin A deficiency]; their average age was 8.4 years (range 11 days to 18 years old). In this Australian cohort, the most common pre-existing medical conditions in those children whose vitamin A status was investigated were cystic fibrosis, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, micronutrient deficiency and short gut syndrome. The most common medical conditions affecting children with measured VAD in this cohort include autism, coeliac disease and cystic fibrosis. A significant association was found between VAD and anaemia and serum iron levels. Of the 146 children, 28 had ophthalmology review, of whom 13 had VAD.” An Australian study, however one that hasn’t been picked up by any news service. Ask your paediatrician if he has heard of it and whether he should test your child for vitamin A?


Aripiprazole for the treatment of irritability and aggression in children and adolescents affected by autism spectrum disorders.consideration should be given to the potential causes of irritability and aggression, such as coexisting medical conditions and environmental factors including inappropriate intervention of parents and teachers.” Finally some sense, to look for underlying medical and environmental factors that may be triggers for irritability and aggression. What I have been advocating for years – look for possible causes first before considering medication. 

Quality of life of ASD individuals and their family

Aggression in autism spectrum disorder: presentation and treatment options.Aggression is associated with negative outcomes for children with ASD and their caregivers, including decreased quality of life, increased stress levels, and reduced availability of educational and social support.” Yet again there is no mention in this article of the possibility of underlying pain or discomfort as a cause of aggression.

Mothers of Children with Autism have Different Rates of Cancer According to the Presence of Intellectual Disability in Their Child.Mothers of children with autism without ID had increased risk of cancer, which may relate to common genetic pathways.

Parenting stress as an indirect pathway to mental health concerns among mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder.Autism spectrum disorder symptom severity was positively related to both parenting stress and maternal psychopathology symptoms.

A Meta-Analytic Review of the Efficacy of Physical Exercise Interventions on Cognition in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD.The results revealed an overall small to medium effect of exercise on cognition, supporting the efficacy of exercise interventions in enhancing certain aspects of cognitive performance in individuals with ASD and/or ADHD. 

For more research into ASD that your medical professional is not reading. Just follow the link to my Autism page, and scroll down to Current Research – Selected research articles of interest.

Be informed, NOT misinformed!