When you think about autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), you probably consider that it’s a genetic-based symptom cluster. That is, you’re either born with it or you’re not.
And I was one of those dudes who figured that was, basically the case. I knew about identical twin studies that said if a person has an identical twin with an ASD, they have a 36-95 percent chance of also having an ASD. Yeah, it’s a wide spread, but it’s significantly more than with non-twins. So I leaned toward genetics because, before I talked to Dr. Robert Melillo, I hadn’t really considered that the steep rise in the incidence of ASD cases could be due to more than simply a diagnostic culture being more aware of the disorder.
Dr. Melillo, founder of the Brain Balance Achievement Centers, an internationally recognized expert on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and author of the recent book, Autism: The Scientific Truth About Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders–and What Parents Can Do Now, passed on what I told you yesterday: There’s no such thing as a genetic epidemic.
So how much has the diagnosis of ASD increased? Quite a lot. We’ve gone to a place where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in every 50 children between 6 and 17 have been diagnosed with some form of an ASD.
After consulting with global researchers, about 50 percent of that increase can be attributed to diagnostic awareness,” Melillo said. “Maybe less. It could be that as much as 60 to 70 percent of the increase isn’t explained by diagnostic awareness. That means the increase really represents new cases that previously didn’t exist.”
If we rule out the possibility of a swiftly changing genome running amok in the world’s population, and we most definitely should, then something more has to be going on here to cause such a dramatic uptick in the number of ASD cases.
“Ninety-five percent of the research over the last 25 years has been looking for bad genes, and we haven’t found that,” Melillo said. “The only thing that can explain that is an environmental factor.
“Environmental causes are either turning off or turning on the wrong genes or causing it at the worng time. Ultimately, the way to cure the problem is through prevention. Identify the environmental factors, eliminate the environmental factors and allow the genes to express themselves as they normally would.”
For instance, he said, women on antidepressants when they conceive and while they carry a child to term have an increased risk of having a child born with an ASD. Diabetes in a child’s mother can increase the chance of having an ASD child by 60 percent. While there are other environmental factors, like an increased exposure to various fertilizers, that can be helping cause the increase, that’s not where most of it comes from.
“The majority of the increase has to do with what we call lifestyle factors, ” Melillo said. “Our diet. Are we overweight? Do we exercise? Do we have a lot of stress, stress hormones? In other words, is our body fit?”
An unfit body, Melillo explained, doesn’t change the actual genetic code of any offspring. Instead, he said, what it does is to cause that unchanged code to express itself in a different way. Either surpress the wrong gene or trigger a different gene to produce a protein that’s not supposed to be there.
When I asked Melillo about the stress issues he mentioned above, I was thinking more along the lines of road rage, or the economy, but he quickly corrected me. The stress he’s talking about, which causes bad inflammation in our bodies, that’s more along the lines of us having almost constant activation of our fight or flight portion of the sympathetic nervous system.
Whew. Another fact-packed post. I think we’re going to have to continue this one on Monday. See you dudes then.
Share on Facebook