Zinc Deficiency And Autism

What is Autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder(ASD), refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.

Multiple genes have been implicated in autism, there has not been enough substantial studies to identify all these genes and that is why it has been one of the most challenging neurodevelopmental disorder.

Genetics might play a big role in autism but so is exposure to specific environmental factors. Like:

  • Prenatal viral infection
  • Zinc deficiency
  • Abnormal melatonin synthesis
  • Maternal diabetes
  • Prenatal perinatal stress
  • Toxins (valproic acid)
  • Parental age
  • Postnatal risk factors

Why is zinc important?

Studies have shown that there is a relation between levels of zinc and autism. Zinc plays a role:

  • enzyme function
  • nucleic acid metabolism
  • growth
  • cellular repair

In pregnant women and newborns, zinc ions help in active site of more than 300 kinds of enzymes and zinc-finger sequences exist in about 10% of the total gene-coded proteins. Zinc deficiency might be a major factor in the etiology of behavioral and mood disturbances in humans. Zinc deficiency is high in children diagnosed with ASD.

Studies have found that zinc levels in autistic patients are a lot lower than  in normal people, by measuring zinc levels in the plasma, hair, and nails of autistic patients, they found that concentrations of zinc trace elements were not normal.

Can we give zinc supplement to autistic patients?

The answer is yes. There is no known cure for autism yet. But medical nutrition therapy, and use of dietary supplements containing zinc can be a good solution.

Foods high in Zinc include:

  • Oysters
  • Crab
  • Beef (chuck roast)
  • Lobster
  • Cashews ( and most seeds)
  • Pork and chicken

How much zinc should I take?

  • The body doesn’t readily store zinc, so you need to get some every day—but only a small amount. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 8 mg per day for women. That number rises to 11 mg for pregnant women, and 12 mg for nursing mothers. Meanwhile, vegetarians may need to take in as much as 50% more than the RDA—the body absorbs less zinc from plant-based foods than from meat sources (a term called bioavailability).

Those with autism or families with an autistic patient have to be careful though. In a new study, researchers with the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN) found that supplements and special diets for children with autism commonly result in excessive amounts of some nutrients and deficiencies in others. In particular, they found that many of the children in their study were consuming high and potentially unsafe levels of vitamin A, folic acid and zinc while not getting enough calcium and vitamin D. https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/kids-autism-supplements-often-result-nutrient-imbalances



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