By Jane Hersey, Well Being Journal, Vol. 16, No. 3.
Autism is more common in the United States than previously estimated, affecting about one in 150 children, and is an urgent public health concern, according to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For decades, the common estimate of autism incidence was four to five per 10,000 children. More recent estimates had been one in 175 or one in 166.
Autism is often characterized by considerable impairments in communication and social interaction, as well as repetitive behaviors and uneven intellectual development. Childhood autism was once thought to result from a “refrigerator mother’s” subconscious rejection of her child. Treatments for autism in the 1960s included having children kick and spit on statues representing their mothers. Fortunately, most scientists now realize that autism is not caused by bad parenting!
Numerous U.S. and European studies indicate that childhood autism is linked with biochemical processes and genetic errors, including food intolerances, allergies and a deficiency in an important metabolic enzyme, phenol sulfotransferase (PST). A growing body of evidence suggests that dietary changes may be helpful for many autistic children. In fact, many parents have reported that their children’s autistic symptoms improved after going on the Feingold diet.
Stage One of the Feingold diet eliminates foods containing both certain artificial additives (which require PST for detoxification) and salicylates (which appear to suppress production of PST). Many autistic children appear to be deficient in the enzyme PST, which is necessary for the proper functioning of the brain, and foods containing synthetic additives and salicylates may rob them of the little PST they have. This may be why autistic children who avoid these foods often improve. This may also help explain the increase in the number of children who have autism. Fifty years ago, autism was relatively rare—and so were synthetically dyed and flavored foods!
For full article, author bio, and related studies see the full article in Vol. 16, No. 3, May/June 2007 (available in print or digital format) of Well Being Journal.