Environmental Issue – July 2022: Hyperlinks between vitamin, exposures, and autism focus of NIEHS occasion

Genetics play a big function in autism, however publicity to environmental contaminants akin to air air pollution and pesticides probably contributes, too. An NIEHS workshop held June 21-22 explored whether or not some vitamins could shield folks from the harms of environmental exposures which will relate to the chance of growing autism or related traits.

Environmental Issue – July 2022: Hyperlinks between vitamin, exposures, and autism focus of NIEHS occasion Amongst her different efforts, Lawler is a program official for research such because the Early Autism Threat Longitudinal Investigation Research, the Childhood Autism Threat from Genes and Setting Research, and the Markers of Autism Threat in Infants-Studying Early Indicators Research. (Photograph courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

Over two days, researchers from greater than a dozen establishments throughout the nation offered data associated to the potential synergistic results of sure meals and vitamins. They mentioned what we all know in regards to the results of dietary interventions akin to folate on autism spectrum dysfunction, and what we will be taught from analysis into different well being outcomes, like the results of consuming fish contaminated by methylmercury.

“Whereas we usually take into consideration danger discount from chemical exposures when it comes to eradicating or reducing exposures, generally that may be tough to realize,” mentioned Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., chief of the NIEHS Genes, Setting, and Well being Department. “An alternate is to concentrate on growing useful dietary exposures, akin to folate or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), with the premise that these can mitigate danger from dangerous exposures.”

Results of air pollution and food regimen

Environmental exposures skilled earlier than and through essential home windows of being pregnant could have lasting well being results, like autism spectrum dysfunction.

Audrey Gaskins, Sc.D. At Emory, Gaskins focuses on the connection between setting, food regimen, and fertility in each women and men. (Photograph courtesy of Audrey Gaskins)

Site visitors air pollution can lower reproductive potential in each women and men, {couples} that stay close to highways have a better chance of infertility, mentioned Audrey Gaskins, Sc.D., an epidemiologist at Emory College’s Rollins College of Public Well being. She checked out information from the Setting and Reproductive Well being Research, specializing in {couples} from the Massachusetts Common Hospital Fertility Heart between 2004 and 2019. The dataset consists of data on contributors’ way of life, food regimen, medical and reproductive historical past, in addition to residential addresses, which researchers linked to air air pollution fashions via six fertilization cycles.

Gaskins hypothesized that air air pollution may injury replica via quite a lot of organic mechanisms, together with oxidative stress, endocrine disruption, DNA methylation, an altered immune response, and irritation. The extra air air pollution, the higher the lower in contributors’ reproductive success. Folic acid, an artificial type of folate, nevertheless, appeared to counteract these results. The extra folic acid a pregnant lady took, the upper the chance of a stay beginning.

“Clearly, way more analysis is required,” mentioned Gaskins, whose work was funded by a grant from NIEHS. “There are only a few preconception cohorts that measure each food regimen and environmental exposures.”

Advantages of folic acid

The advantages of folic acid prolong past replica. Typically taken by pregnant girls within the type of a multivitamin to cut back the danger of spina bifida, the complement could cut back the danger of autism as nicely.

“We do not have interventions which can be good preventative methods for these neurodevelopmental issues” like autism and schizophrenia, mentioned Joshua Roffman, M.D., director of the Early Mind Improvement Initiative at Massachusetts Common Hospital. But folic acid is protected, broadly out there, and could possibly be leveraged to cut back danger.

Analysis revealed in 2019 by Rebecca Schmidt, Ph.D., a molecular epidemiologist on the College of California, Davis confirmed a lowered related danger of autism in youthful siblings when their moms took a prenatal vitamin with folic acid throughout being pregnant. Amongst 241 youngsters whose older siblings had autism spectrum dysfunction, 32% developed autism when their moms didn’t take a prenatal vitamin in the course of the first month of being pregnant, in comparison with 14% when their moms did take a vitamin complement. Enriched breads and cereals now comprise folic acid, however growing the quantity and kind of meals fortified with the vitamin may additional lower danger.

Different parts of a prenatal vitamin or dietary supplements like vitamin D or polyunsaturated fatty acids may have neurodevelopmental advantages. “We’d like extra research on potential mechanisms that these exposures share, and that would assist us determine the way to advance methods for any mitigation of danger,” mentioned Schmidt.

It is difficult

Though a rising physique of analysis factors to the potential protecting results of vitamin on autism spectrum dysfunction, solely a handful of vitamins have been examined exploring the connection. Presenters cautioned that efforts to analyze dietary interventions also needs to think about dose, timing, fairness, and entry to remedy.

“I believe that is an thrilling space of analysis, however we must be very considerate about the concept dietary interventions should not as straightforward as we predict,” mentioned Youssef Oulhote, Ph.D., an environmental epidemiologist on the College of Massachusetts Amherst, who co-organized the assembly with Kristen Lyall, Sc.D., an epidemiologist at Drexel College.

“The workshop was a good way to assume extra deeply in regards to the strategies we must be utilizing and the questions we must be asking,” famous Lyall.

(Susan Cosier is a contract author for the NIEHS Workplace of Communications and Public Liaison.)