Autism is due to both genetic and environmental factors. Still a lot of research is being done in this area. We know that in about five to twenty percent of cases of autism, people have a major single gene disorder like fragile X and about half or less of people with those single gene disorders will develop autism, but half or more of them won’t develop autism. In addition, there are many environmental factors that seem to increase the risk of autism. One of the most important ones seem to be folic acid. If a woman takes folic acid at conception, then she has a forty percent lower chance of having a child with autism, so lack of folic acid seems to be one of the causes of autism.
Unfortunately, if a woman takes a prenatal supplement at about two months it has no benefit. It has to be taken at conception so we know it’s very early in the development of the fetus that parts of autism are developing. We know another major risk factor is low iron, that during the third trimester about forty percent of women develop low iron because their body is making a lot of red blood cells and if they develop low iron they have about a five times greater risk of having a child with autism.
We know that part of the reason that folic acid is very important is that it helps make glutathione. Several studies show mothers of children with autism and their children have low glutathione and that’s the substance that’s one of your major defenses against toxic metals and toxic chemicals. There are quite a few studies showing that kids with autism, if their mothers are exposed to toxic metals or toxic chemicals they are high risk of developing autism and children with autism often, many studies but not all, have shown they have higher levels of a range of toxic metals.
There are many different factors. Increasing parental age can be a minor factor as well. We still have a lot to learn about all the many causes of autism and there’s probably not one cause. There are probably many different causes but our genes don’t change very rapidly, whereas environment has changed dramatically in the last hundred years, so most of the increase in the rate of autism seems to be due to a change in environmental factors. Lack of key nutrients like folic acid, increased exposure to toxic metals, toxic chemicals.
-Dr. James Adams, Ph.D