According to a recent study, there is a possible link between prenatal exposure to processed foods and their children developing autism.
Researchers from the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando found that high levels of propionic acid can actually change the nervous system development in the fetal brain. Propionic acid is used in processed food in order to help it last on the shelf longer. The change in the brain caused by propionic acid might just be a precursor to autism. This study is the first in its field and therefore will need to be studied quite a bit more to give a conclusive statement, but the early findings are showing a link between the processed food in pregnancy and autism.
The study, led by Saleh Naser, Ph.D., shared that he was interested in learning about the link between processed food and autism when he noticed that children with autism have more propionic acid in their stool. Naser was very intrigued that children with autism were more likely to have gastrointestinal disease. Naser was trying to find the reason for the link between autism and digestive system.
In laboratory experiments, researched learned that when they exposed human fetal nervous system stem cells to high levels of propionic acid, the natural balance between brain cells was disrupted. The propionic acid disrupted the balance by cutting the number of cells that change into neurons and by boosting the number that becomes glial cells, which is an essential part of the nervous system. Scientists have found that there are too many glial cells, they might cause inflammation in the brain. The inflammation has been seen in the brains of children with Autism.
Many different pieces of research have tried to find the cause of autism. There have been previous studies that suggest a link between autism and the environment, as well as autism and genes. However, this study is the first of it’s kind to show a possible link between high levels of propionic acid and autism.