New research suggests a simple nutritional strategy could help reduce the risk of autism. The Texas researchers involved in the study say the helpful product is already on the market.
In the past two years, researchers at Texas A&M have been hard at work experimenting with neural stem cells to prove that a simple pre-natal treatment and prior genetic testing could reduce the risk of autism.
“There is a particular genetic association with certain types of autism, and in fact, the defect is in building what is a natural product that is already available on the market,” Dr. Vytas Bankaitis, a Texas A&M researcher, said.
That product is Carnitine. High levels of the supplement can be found in red meat or whole milk.
“We can look at a system in a real brain where we see neural stem cell defects and we find that addition of this natural product actually reverses these defects,” Dr. Bankaitis said.
These doctors believe women who don’t ingest enough of the supplement could be placing their unborn child at risk. They say the earlier you start, the better.
Dr. Bankaitis says the non-invasive treatment is as simple as it gets when it comes to risk management.
“This is a natural product that is available, we are not talking about some sort of experimental drug that nobody really knows what the side effects are, people understand Carnitine as a supplement really quite well,” Dr. Bankaitis said.
While he does admit this treatment may not prevent all cases of autism, he says it could substantially lower the number of autism patients if addressed early on.
“If we just look at the social cost of autism today in the United States alone, this would be billions of dollars potentially,” Dr. Bankaitis said.
Both researchers say the next step would involve a clinical trial to test their findings. As for parents who are already considered to have the mutated gene, the doctors believe taking these preventative measures significantly reduces the risk.