Arizona State University researchers found children with autism tested with higher levels of several toxic metals in their blood and urine compared to neurotypical (standard developing) children.
The data, published in the journal Biological Trace Element Research, included 55 children with autism between the ages of 5 to 16, and 44 controls of similar age and gender.
Higher levels of lead, a neurotoxic metal known to cause neurological disorders, was found in the red blood cells of autistic participants (41 percent). In addition, significantly higher levels of lead (74 percent), thallium (77 percent), tin (115 percent), and tungsten (44 percent) were detected in urine samples. The presence of the aforementioned toxic metals can interfere or impair with neural development and organ function.
A statistical analysis was conducted to determine if the abnormal levels were linked to autism severity. Between 38 to 47 percent of the variation of autism severity was associated with the level of several toxic metals, cadmium and mercury being the most prevalent.
The study, led by James Adams, PhD – a professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport, and Energy and director of the ASU Autism/Asperger’s Research Program – suggests detoxification may improve the symptoms associated with autism, however cautions that further investigation is necessary to identify the link of metal toxicity and autism.
Adams has a daughter with the disorder, diagnosed in 1994, which has led him to shift much of his research to autism, especially the biological causes and treatments. His prior clinical analysis in 2009 determined the use of oral dimercapto succinic acid (DMSA) therapy, a federally-approved medication for removing toxic metals, was generally safe and effective and found to temporarily benefit the symptoms of autism in a subset of participants.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication. Autistics have a restricted understanding of non-verbal communication, have difficulty with empathy, and exhibit repetitive behaviors as they like predictability. Autistics can suffer from a comorbidity of compulsive disorders.
No two people with autism are alike as the condition is part of a spectrum (autism spectrum disorder) – a group of developmental disabilities that cause a mild to severe array of social and behavioral challenges.
The disorder manifests in the first three years of live, and is more common in boys – as 1 out of 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism in the US according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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